The Serbian, who will surrender top spot in the world rankings to the Spaniard today, captured his fourth ATP World Tour title of the year with a 6-3, 6-4 triumph in Beijing.
The result improved Djokovic’s record in the Chinese capital to 19-0 and made him the first four-time winner of the event following his successes in 2009, 2010 and 2012.
Nadal had secured his return to the world number one spot on Saturday when he reached the final courtesy of semi-final opponent Tomas Berdych retiring with a back injury, with the Czech trailing 4-2 in the first set.
The 27-year-old’s rise to the top follows a remarkable comeback following a lengthy lay-off with a knee injury. Since returning to the court in February, Nadal has won ten titles, including the French and US Opens.
Djokovic quickly regrouped from the disappointment of being knocked off his perch, however, and made a fast start to the Beijing showpiece. He broke serve in Nadal’s first service game en route to closing out a 35-minute opening set in which he conceded only two points on serve.
And the six-time major winner was equally dominant in the second set, snaring an early break and dropping just four points on serve to clinch an impressive win which ended a run of three straight defeats against the Spaniard.
In the women’s event, top seed Serena Williams made light work of Jelena Jankovic, beating the Serbian 6-2, 6-2 to claim her 56th WTA Tour title.