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Djokovic Edges Verdasco To Stay No. 1

Beijing, China

Djokovic© GettyNovak Djokovic is chasing a fourth Beijing title.

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic fought off tough resistance from Fernando Verdasco on Thursday in Beijing to reach the China Open quarter-finals and hang on to the top spot in the Emirates ATP Rankings, for now. The Serb dropped the second set, but recovered to beat Verdasco 7-5, 2-6, 6-2.

A three-time winner in Beijing, Djokovic improved to a 16-0 mark at the ATP World Tour 500 hard-court tournament. He must retain his title this week if he is to have the chance to stay No. 1 for a 102nd week. If No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal reaches the final, he will reclaim the No. 1 ranking regardless.

"I try to do what I need to do, and that is to win the matches," said Djokovic. "Rankings will change. They change all the time. Over the years it has been the case. But you can't think too much about it. Your job is to win as many matches as possible and the rankings will follow the results that you make."

The 26-year-old Djokovic squandered a 4-2 lead in the first set, but broke Verdasco again in the 12th game to seal the opener. However, Verdasco fought back strongly. The former World No. 7 broke Djokovic in the third and seventh games to level the match and force a decider. Djokovic made a strong start in the third set, opening up a 2-0 lead, and saved a break point in the seventh game before closing out victory in just under two hours.

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"[It was a] lack of concentration from my side," said Djokovic. "I had some chances at the start of the second set, and I managed to allow him to come back into the match and start playing well.

"But, again, the important thing is that in the third set I regained the focus and the patience also, decreased the unforced errors, and managed to get a win, which is what counts in the end."

Australian Open champion Djokovic is bidding to win his first title since the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters in April, when he dethroned eight-time champion Nadal in the final. 

Djokovic goes on to face Sam Querrey, who upset sixth seed and Barclays ATP World Tour Finals contender Stanislas Wawrinka, 6-3, 7-6(2) in 76 minutes. The American fired 11 aces and converted three of his four break points to record his first win in four attempts against Wawrinka, who is currently eighth in the Emirates ATP Race To London.

In his sixth quarter-final of the season, Querrey will look to overturn a 1-6 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Djokovic. His lone win came last year at the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris.

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