Djokovic – who lifted two Grand Slams this season – is back up to third in the world rankings, although he’s still nearly 2,000 points behind his rivals.
The Serbian, after a troublesome start to the season following his recovery from an elbow injury, could still finish the year as world No 1, but will need to win the Shanghai Masters this week and he begins with a last-32 tie against Jeremy Chardy.
With Nadal’s absence in the Chinese capital, Djokovic’s chances of closing the gap have been given a real boost.
But when asked about his chances of topping the world rankings, Djokovic put things into context.
“I didn’t hear Rafa is out for the whole season,” Djokovic said when asked about his rival’s injury.
“Is that new information? No, so Rafa is out for China.
“He’s still in contention for No 1 and he’s still No 1.
“I’m so glad I put myself in a position to compete for No 1 in the world.
“Four or five months ago, that was looking like far from reach.
“But with the recent results, I put myself in a decent position to fight for year end world No 1 which of course is one of the ultimate goals you have as a professional tennis player.”
Meanwhile, Chardy is confident of springing an upset, as he said: “I haven’t found the key … so I would like to try something different even if I get killed. It is not easy to believe once you lost all these times in a row and never won a set.
“The way I played the last times just didn’t work. I feel like I already tried different things.
“If you have an idea. I will listen.
“The courts here are really fast and I was surprised because I didn’t think we had courts this fast on tour.
“Maybe that will help me (against Djokovic).”