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Novak Djokovic admitted Tuesday he was powerless to prevent Rafael Nadal from potentially opening up a significant lead at the top of the world rankings, but said he believed he could bounce back by repeating the magic of 2011.
Nadal this week replaced the Serb as world number one after collecting 10 titles this year, and has the opportunity to widen the gulf as he has no points to defend for the rest of 2013.
"He deserves to be number one," said Djokovic, who beat his fierce rival in Sunday's China Open final in Beijing. "Results are there for him. Definitely he's so far the most successful player in this year.
"I can affect only what I can affect, and that is to play the best tennis that I possibly can in the moment and to try to take one tournament at a time and continue on doing what I have done in the last week in Beijing."
The Shanghai Masters top seed admitted that he was defending a stack of points in the rolling 12-month rankings after a strong finish to 2012, but that from February Nadal would be in the same position.
Nadal returned to action in February this year after missing seven months with a left knee injury. His title haul since includes the French Open and the US Open, where he defeated Djokovic in the final.
The Serb, who won his third consecutive Australian Open this year, falling just short in the other three Grand Slams, said he had enjoyed a "pretty good year" but still harboured hopes of recapturing his form of two years ago.
"I am aware of the fact that the 2011 season will be very difficult to repeat," said the 26-year-old.
"But still, knowing that I have done something like that, knowing that I've lost only a few matches in a whole year, gives me a lot of confidence and also belief that I can do it again."
In 2011 Djokovic, who could potentially meet fifth seed Roger Federer in the quarter-finals in Shanghai, enjoyed one of the greatest seasons in tennis history, winning 10 tournaments including three Grand Slams.
The Serb also spoke up Tuesday in support of Nadal on the frustrations of trying to force changes to the Tour -- the Spaniard had earlier said he wanted to see less tennis played on hardcourts to reduce the toll on players' bodies.
"I understand why he feels that way, because I feel it too. It's been over five years that we all have been trying in different ways to affect some things regarding schedule, tournaments, different formats, so forth," said Djokovic.
"But the system is rooted inside. It's very difficult to change."
"I think the new leadership of the ATP... has been much better in terms of finding solutions and finding a mutual understanding with players. But it's still a long way from what we try to do, what we plan to do," he added.