- ATP Tour
Shanghai surrender by Murray against Djokovic
Andy Murray failed in his bid for a hat-trick of Shanghai Masters titles on Sunday, losing a battle of outstanding quality and enormous physicality against Novak Djokovic having had the opportunity to serve for the match.
In the first meeting of the pair since Murray beat Djokovic to win his maiden grand slam at the US Open, another enthralling contest ensued in Shanghai, eventually won 5-7 7-6(11) 6-3 by Djokovic after a gruelling three hours and 20 minutes on court.
There was typical ebb-and-flow to the contest as both men smashed their rackets at different stages in the match, before Murray served for the championship at 5-4 in the second. Djokovic has incredible powers of recovery though and, after breaking back, battled his way through an epic tiebreaker to level before turning the tables on his rival in the decider.
Murray clearly got under his opponent's skin at the end of a tense first set, with Djokovic hammering his racket into the court five or six times after ceding the advantage. The drama started from the second game, with Djokovic first to penetrate serve, but Murray answered immediately with two pin-point forehands.
Murray then went ahead for the first time when he broke again in Djokovic's next service game, sending up a brilliant lob followed by a forehand winner to create the chance, which he converted for 3-2.
This time it was Djokovic's turn to answer as Murray sunk a backhand into the net, but the Brit moved straight back out to 4-3 thanks to some superb defensive work. He needed to improve on his own serve though, and after a sloppy eighth game the match was locked at 4-4.
Frustration was about to engulf Djokovic - unbeaten now in 10 matches since the US Open final, after he firstly allowed Murray to recover from 0-30 when the Brit was serving to stay in the set, and then gifted Murray another break with two lazy volleys. Djokovic's racket took the punishment, but the set went to Murray.
A small piece of history awaited Djokovic if victorious, with a win taking him past Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as the only man to win seven of the nine Masters 1000 events currently on the ATP Tour calendar. He also chalked up victim No. 70 of a superb year.
However, Murray was eyeing the 25th ATP Tour crown of his career, so it was hardly surprising that the breaks of serve dried up in the second set as caution began to creep in. The match moved with serve through to 3-3, at which point Murray hit the accelerator again.
Supported by a serve that was now firing rockets at Djokovic, Murray created break point with yet more aggressive play from the baseline, dictating to the Serb who relented. One solitary break was enough to allow him to serve out for the championship, but a wild forehand gifted Djokovic a lifeline as Murray this time sent his racket for a bumpy ride.
Back at 5-5 he needed to regain composure, which he quickly managed to take things to a tiebreaker. However, Djokovic showed nerves of steel in the shootout to consistently force Murray to serve to stay in the set, which he eventually failed to do when Djokovic attacked the net for an easy winner.
With both players looking weary - Murray in particular, it was Djokovic who appeared happier with life as the Brit constantly castigated himself for failing to kill off the match. The world No. 2 eventually went ahead at 4-3, before clinching the championship as Murray's body gave up on him.