By Gregory Blachier
PARIS (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic beat defending champion David Ferrer of Spain 7-5 7-5 to win the Paris Masters on Sunday and keep alive his hopes of reclaiming the world number one spot by the end of the year.
The Serb recovered from a break down in both sets to snatch his third consecutive title, and the 40th of his career, following victories in Beijing and at the Shanghai Masters last month.
"I knew that coming into the match I was going to have to work for my points," Djokovic told a news conference.
"He was not going to give me too many free points. He was going to run for every ball. He's a great competitor, one of the most respected guys on tour because he works hard and he's very humble and he's a very nice person."
It is the first time Djokovic, the 2009 Paris Masters champion, has won back-to-back Masters Series events since his successive triumphs in Rome, Madrid and Montreal in 2011.
"Summer was up and down, and now again I'm playing at a very high level and have lots of confidence in myself, in my game," said Djokovic, who had not won a title since the Monte Carlo Masters in April prior to his success in Beijing.
He could still overthrow world number one Rafa Nadal if he wins next week's ATP World Tour Finals in London and the Davis Cup final with Serbia, who host Czech Republic in Belgrade later this month.
Nadal will ensure he stays top of the rankings if he wins at least two matches in London.
Ferrer, who collected his first Masters Series crown last year in Paris, became the fifth defending champion to reach the final at the indoor event and fail to retain the title.
The world number three served for both sets, only to come up against Djokovic's famous fighting spirit.
"It was very physical, trust me," Djokovic said.
"But in the last few games of both sets, it was mental in the end, just trying to show your opponent that you're there, that you want to attack, that you want to take your opportunities."
Ferrer began aggressively, upsetting the Serb with the same cross-court forehands that helped him unsettle compatriot Nadal in their semi-final.
He broke Djokovic's serve in the fifth game by winning an exhausting rally with a subtle backhand dropshot.
Yet his opponent found the resources to strike back. Djokovic made Ferrer move around the court more and more before levelling at 5-5 and then snatching the first set.
It was the same scenario in the second set, with Ferrer taking an early lead but proving unable to hold on to his serve in the tenth game as Djokovic attacked the net to shorten the points.
The Serb prevailed and extended Ferrer's losing-streak in finals. The world number three has been beaten in his last three, in Stockholm, Valencia and Paris, and has a 2-7 record in finals this season.
"He has done a great match. He managed to break the rhythm. You have to play the perfect match to beat Novak," Ferrer told a news conference.
"I played maybe better than yesterday, and I lost. With Nole, if I don't take the chance, it's impossible to beat him."
Both players will be in action on Tuesday at the ATP World Tour finals in London, where Djokovic will face Swiss Roger Federer and Ferrer will take on compatriot Nadal, their defeated semi-final opponents in Paris.
"It has been a great year, it's 100 percent positive. I will now focus on my final tournament of the year and fight to stay third, while others fight for the number one," Ferrer said. (Reporting by Gregory Blachier; Editing by Toby Davis)