REUTERS - Serbia’s Novak Djokovic continued his love affair with the hard courts in China as he swotted aside the challenge of Jo Wilfried Tsonga to reach the final of the Shanghai Masters on Saturday.
The defending champion and top seed stretched his unbeaten run in China to 19 matches after he overcame Tsonga 6-2 7-5 to set up a Sunday final against either world number one Rafa Nadal or Argentine Juan Martin del Potro, who meet later on Saturday.
Djokovic lost the world number one ranking to Nadal last week despite beating the Spaniard in the final of the China Open for his fourth Beijing title in five years.
But he looks like adding another Chinese title to his name after another slick display of returning in Shanghai heaped too much pressure on Tsonga, who unravelled with 35 unforced errors.
The world number two and Australian Open champion was quick out of the blocks, racing into a 3-0 lead after breaking Tsonga to love in his opening service game.
The Frenchman looked like dropping another service game but some heavy hitting helped him get on the board before a sumptuous backhand cross court resulted in him breaking the Serbian in the next for 3-2.
However, that was as good as it got for the Frenchman, who is in a close race to grab one of the last remaining places at the ATP Tour Finals in London next month.
Djokovic claimed the next three games to wrap up the set as Tsonga’s first serve percentage fell to 46, coupled with 14 unforced errors in comparison to just four by the Serb.
A change of shirt and a renewed focus helped Tsonga stay on terms at the start of the second set before another misplaced volley handed Djokovic the break and a 4-2 lead.
The Frenchman broke back immediately as Djokovic returned to his chair incensed and screaming at the umpire after a couple of late calls by a line judge.
He regained his composure, however, and the set looked to be heading for a tiebreak with Tsonga serving at 5-6 before Djokovic raised his game once more.
Tsonga saved one match point with a booming forehand before wasting the chance to force the breaker and Djokovic made him pay as he sealed victory at the second attempt with a powerful winner down the line.
Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by John O'Brien