Serbia's Novak Djokovic overcame a second-set hiccup to defeat Spain's Fernando Verdasco 7-5, 2-6, 6-2 Thursday at the China Open and keep alive his hopes of retaining the No. 1 ranking.
Djokovic managed to eke out the first set thanks in large part to a high first-serve percentage and clutch play in saving four of the five break points he faced.
Verdasco then came alive in the second set, dominating his first-serve points and converting both break points he created to force a decider.
But Djokovic responded with his best level when it counted, completely dominating the rallies in the final set to win the match in style.
With the win, the 26-year-old Djokovic kept alive his chances of holding on to the No. 1 ranking for another week, although Spain's Rafael Nadal is in an excellent position to wrest the top spot away in Beijing and the Serbian acknowledged that in his post-match comments.
"I try to do what I need to do, and that is to win the matches," Djokovic said.
"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."
Nadal, 27, can regain the top spot by reaching the China Open final, even if he were to lose to the Serbian in the championship match.
For Djokovic to stay No. 1 when the new rankings come out on Monday, he must win the tournament and Nadal must lose either in Friday's quarterfinals or Saturday's semifinals.
Even if Nadal does not take over the No. 1 ranking this week, he would still have several more chances to do so in the coming weeks.