ATP Rankings: Nadal Takes Big Lead Over Federer, Djokovic Back In Contention

Novak Djokovic made a winning return to ATP Tour action by easing past Jeremy Chardy at the Shanghai Masters, as he begins his end-of-season chase of Rafael Nadal at the top of the ATP rankings.

The Serb has not played tour-level tennis since winning his 14th Grand Slam title at the US Open but enjoyed a 6-3 7-5 victory over the Frenchman on Tuesday as he turns his attention to finishing the year as world No. 1.

It seemed rather unlikely that Djokovic would be in this position having not lifted a title in the first half of the season and undergoing elbow surgery, but back-to-back Slam wins at Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows have propelled him into contention to catch French Open champion Nadal.

Jeremy Chardy of France hits a return during his men's singles second round match against Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff at the Japan Open tennis championships in Tokyo on October 4, 2018. (Photo by TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA / AFP)TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images
Chardy was beaten (Picture: AFP/Getty)
Nadal is missing Shanghai through a knee injury (Picture: Getty)

Heading into Shanghai, the Spaniard sat 1,035 points above the 31-year-old Serb in the Race to London but his absence from the penultimate Masters 1000 event of the year due to a knee injury gives the world No. 3 a free swing at significantly closing that gap.

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Djokovic expressed his own surprise at being in a position to challenge the Spaniard after a tough start to the season, but in this form it feels almost inevitable that he will end the year at the summit.

Live Race to London

1. Nadal – 7480

2. Djokovic – 6535

3. Del Potro – 5210

4. Federer – 4810

Highest year-end No. 1 totals (ATP only)

6 – Sampras

5 – Connors

5 – Federer

4 – Nadal

4 – Djokovic

4 – Lendl

4 – McEnroe

The Serb has never dropped a set to Chardy in their 12 meetings and always looked in control, taking time away from the Frenchman in the big moments with a deadly combination of well constructed and thought out points with lethally accurate ball striking.

Djokovic, a three-time champion in these parts, will face either Hyeon Chung or Marco Cecchinato – both of whom beat him at Grand Slam level in 2018 – in the third round.

Roger Federer, meanwhile, will take on the in-form Russian Daniil Medvedev in round two.

TOPSHOT - Russia's Daniil Medvedev reacts following a point against Canada's Milos Raonic during the men's singles quarter-finals at the Japan Open tennis championships in Tokyo on October 5, 2018. (Photo by Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP)KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images
Medvedev got off to a winning start (Picture: AFP/Getty)
Roger Federer of Switzerland hits a return as he takes part in a training session at the Shanghai Masters tennis tournament on October 8, 2018. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP)JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images
Federer will take on Medvedev (Picture: AFP/Getty)

The 22-year-old reached a career-high world No. 22 after defeating Kei Nishikori in the Japan Open final, with Denis Shapovalov, Milos Raonic and Diego Schwartzman among his other victims in Tokyo.

However, he didn’t have it all his own way against Chinese wildcard Ze Zhang, falling a set behind before winning 3-6 7-6 (9-7) 6-4.

British No. 1 Kyle Edmund – playing at a career-high ranking of No. 14 – booked his spot in the second round with a 7-5 6-3 win over Djokovic’s compatriot Filip Krajinovic.

Kyle Edmund of Britain reacts after winning a point against Filip Krajinovic of Serbia during their men's singles first round match at the Shanghai Masters tennis tournament on October 9, 2018. (Photo by WANG ZHAO / AFP)WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images
Edmund moved into round two (Picture: AFP/Getty)
Tennis - Shanghai Masters - Shanghai, China - October 9, 2018 - Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia celebrates his win against Denis Shapovalov of Canada. REUTERS/Aly Song
Basilashvili’s fine form continued (Picture: REUTERS)

Edmund faces Italy’s Andreas Seppi in the second round.

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Nikoloz Basilashvili also maintained his fine form, after defeating Juan Martin del Potro to win the China Open, by thumping Denis Shapovalov 6-2 6-2.

He will take on world No. 5 Alexander Zverev in round two, while third seed Del Potro takes on Richard Gasquet.

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Kerber splits with Fissette as Konta makes winning start to trial with Zavialoff

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Juan Martin del Potro dealt another cruel injury blow

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