The Serb, who had elbow surgery in February but recovered to win Wimbledon and then the US Open last month, said: "Being number two after this tournament is also a great achievement, considering the first four, five months of the year and considering I had the surgery".
Quizzed by reporters about his plans for next year, the 20-time Grand Slam victor - fresh from losing to 13th seed Borna Coric of Croatia - showed a flash of irritation. He has won all three of his previous finals in Shanghai.
"He's really improved his game, stepping up into the court, goes for his shots more than he used to", Federer said of Coric.
I do feel Coric can keep matters close, at the very least.
"I'm cherishing every moment of it", he told the crowd, calling Shanghai "a special place" to him.
Djokovic dominated opponents behind his powerful serve, winning all 47 of his service games during the tournament. I think it was a really good week for me, from basically me thinking on Monday morning I'm going to fly out on Monday evening after my first match [against Stan Wawrinka] to playing my first Masters 1000 final.
Coric, who has yet to win a set against Djokovic in three matches played, sailed a forehand wide to miss out on the rare opportunity. "I think I can be very happy with my level of play this week".
"I had to reinvent myself and find, you know, (a) proper formula for success". From my end, I tried to just focus on what I need to do.
Having completed a remarkable comeback that not many, including himself, wouldn't have foreseen, Djokovic has now set his sights on the year-ending number one spot, which he had last achieved in 2015.
The victory extended his winning streak to 18 matches, the longest of the season by any male player. Djoković, who was solid on serve the whole match, did not give Ćorić any other openings to break back in the set and get back into the match apart.