(Releads, adds Davydenko quotes)
By Nick Mulvenney
SHANGHAI, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Serbia’s Novak Djokovic crushed Nikolay Davydenko 6-1 7-5 to win the Masters Cup on Sunday, underlining his credentials as a major challenger to Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at the top of men’s tennis.
The Australian Open champion, who lost all his matches without winning a set on his debut at the season-ending shootout last year, earned $1.24 million to move to within 10 ranking points of world number two Federer.
The Swiss defending champion crashed out at the round-robin stage, while world number one Nadal missed the $4.45 million tournament through injury.
“I’m very, very happy,” said the 21-year-old Djokovic after kissing the court and tossing his racket and shirt into the crowd.
“It’s a great achievement for me. The best eight players playing here says everything about the quality of the event and I would definitely put it on a level with the grand slams.”
Having been a model of inconsistency in his earlier matches, the black-clad world number three played almost perfect tennis on his way to winning the first set.
World number five Davydenko, who beat Briton Andy Murray to reach his first Masters Cup final, was bludgeoned into submission by the young Serbian’s powerful groundstrokes and sizzling winners.
“Against Djokovic you need to be perfect and also play very fast and very well,” said Davydenko.
“That’s what he did, and I didn’t ... Normally I play very fast and have very good control and today I didn’t. Djokovic played very well. For me I think today was a very difficult day.”
A string of top quality returns allowed Djokovic to break Davydenko’s first service game and a drop shot followed by an exquisite lob gave him a 5-0 lead.
Davydenko finally got on the board in the next game but, despite having two break points when the Serbian was serving for the set, Djokovic rallied to take it 6-1.
Even when the hard-working Russian tried to mix it up by coming to the net, Djokovic had an answer for almost everything and it was no great surprise when the 27-year-old started fluffing simple shots.
Davydenko, playing his 26th event of the year, saved two match points at 5-3 in the second set and grabbed his first break of the match for 5-5.
Djokovic hit back, however, and wrapped up his fourth title of the season when the Russian netted a service return.
“What was on my mind on the last point? I was thinking ‘Oh, great, the season’s over’,” said Davydenko.
The season-ending championship moves to London next season after four years at the 15,000-seat Qizhong arena in the suburbs of China’s financial capital.
Editing by Justin Palmer