Key Biscayne, Florida:Djokovic succeeded where Roger Federer failed, beating qualifier Guillermo Canas 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 to win the Sony Ericsson Open on Sunday.
Canas upset top-ranked Federer twice in March, including in the fourth round on Tuesday. But the 29-year-old Argentine's relentless baseline game failed to faze the 19-year-old Djokovic, who dominated with his versatile shotmaking and held every service game.
"I hope this is only the start," said Djokovic, runner-up at Indian Wells, California two weeks ago. "I was always trying to compare myself to the best players in the world, because that's what I want to be. Right now I feel like probably for the first time in my career I'm on that level, that I deserve to be one of the three best players in the world."
Career high ranking
Ranked 10th for the tournament, Djokovic will improve to a career-high No 7 in the new list on Monday. With his first ATP Masters Series title, the slender Serb became the youngest men's champion in the tournament's 23-year history.
Djokovic won every set he played - the first time the Key Biscayne men's champion has done that since Ivan Lendl in 1989.
"Tennis has a new star today," tournament chairman Butch Buchholz said. "He's going to be around."
Djokovic has already put Serbia back on the tennis map. The nation touts a modest tennis tradition aside from Monica Seles, a nine-time Grand Slam champion who was in the crowd on Sunday.
"I'm very happy about that because she was one of my idols when I was young," Djokovic said.
The crowd roared when Djokovic skipped a forehand winner off the baseline on match point, and his exuberant celebration kept the cheers coming. Once he was shirtless, he waved his racket in several directions before throwing it to a delighted young woman in the front row.
"It was a very emotional moment for me," Djokovic said. "I was thinking even to put away my shoes and shorts and everything. But I said, OK, television is here, so I'll keep that."
Canas applauds the young champion
"He's a great player," Canas said. "If he continues like this, he's going to be one of the top three or four players very, very soon."
Canas can take consolation in a career resurgence. Ranked as high as eighth before serving a 15-month doping suspension that ended last summer, he was 143rd at the start of the year but will climb to about 31st.
"I'm very happy now, but hopefully more happy moments are going to come for me," Canas said. "Now everybody knows I'm back on the tour."
"He has been through a tough period," Djokovic said. "He came back. Well done. He's a great player."