Coric, who knocked out Juan Martin del Potro and Roger Federer en route to his first ATP Masters series final, matched Djokovic in the early exchanges as the two players traded blow-for-blow on serve.
Coric beat an out-of-sorts Federer 6-4 6-4 in the semi-finals, which means that Djokovic will replace the Swiss star as world No2 in tomorrow's rankings. I love watching him play.
The 20-times Grand Slam victor has produced a series of lacklustre performances in Shanghai, his first tournament since suffering a shock fourth-round defeat by John Millman at the U.S. Open last month.
But he put Nishikori under the cosh immediately, breaking the eighth seed in the first game of both sets, though the Japanese did well to recover and force a second-set tie break.
Djokovic climbed to number two in the ATP rankings with his semi-final defeat of Alexander Zverev and this victory 24 hours later was his 18th in a row.
He exited the US Open in the last 16 at the hands of unheralded Australian John Millman, ranked 55th, and only made the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.
The Serb offered 13th-seeded Coric one break point in the match, in the sixth game of the second set.
And following this latest win, Djokovic watched as Coric apologised to the crowd for not being able to speak their native language before stepping up to the microphone and reeling off flawless Chinese in his acceptance speech.
"And where I was about four months ago and where I am today is quite an extreme opposite".
This was a fourth Shanghai crown for Djokovic and he is homing in on a return to number one, having fallen as low as 22nd in May as he struggled following elbow surgery in February.
The world number five - who beat Djokovic in their only previous meeting, past year in the Rome Masters final - recovered his poise for a time.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion and top seed will meet 13th seed Borna Coric on Saturday after the Croatian defeated unseeded Australian Matthew Ebden 7-5, 6-4. Zverev threatened to unravel and conceded the set in barely 30 minutes after landing a routine smash into the net, to gasps from the arena. An increasingly exasperated Zverev issued more punishment to his racquet at 3-1 down, earning a code violation and tossing the battered piece into the crowd.
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