Djokovic denies Murray in Shanghai thriller
SHANGHAI—Novak Djokovic gained sweet revenge for his US Open defeat to Andy Murray on Sunday, saving five match points to seal a stunning 5-7, 7-6 (13/11), 6-3 victory in the Shanghai Masters final.
The iron-willed Serbian was second-best for long stretches but refused to buckle, sealing his 13th Masters title in a contest lasting three hours and 21 minutes as he hunts down Roger Federer at the top of the rankings.
The thrilling duel, played out in front of a packed crowd at the Qi Zhong Stadium, hinged on a monster second set tie-break that lasted more than 20 minutes, which the second seed won to stay alive in the match.
The defeat, in a contest packed with high-quality, spellbinding tennis, was defending champion Murray’s first ever loss at the Shanghai Masters after he won the tournament in 2010 and 2011.
“Could have easily gone the other way. He was five match points up,” said Djokovic, who won the China Open before coming to Shanghai.
“When I faced those match points, I tried to focus on each individually. He was so close to the victory that I cannot say I was the better player.”
The Serbian, hot favorite to be year-end number one for the second consecutive season, said the title would give him a major boost as he closes in on the top spot, which he said was his “biggest objective”.
“It’s something I’m aiming for. Obviously this is going to be a huge confidence boost and also is going to help me in the race for number one,” he said, though he cautioned “it’s still not done”.
A gruelling first set contained seven breaks of serve as the players went toe-to-toe in a breathtaking display of power hitting, with neither able to grab the initiative.
But the British third seed made what proved to be the crucial breakthrough in the 11th game, recovering from 40-love down to break for a 6-5 lead as an infuriated Djokovic destroyed his racquet, tossing it away in disgust.
Murray, 25, broke in the seventh game of the second set for a 4-3 lead and looked poised for victory as he led 5-4, 30-0.
But Djokovic produced a through-the-legs shot, wowing the crowd as he began his fightback and then thwarted the Scot on his first match point before cancelling out Murray’s advantage.
The Serbian, 25, denied the Scot four more times in a pulsating shoot-out, sealing the set with a drive volley that was followed by a trademark fist-pumping celebration as Murray destroyed his own racquet.
The third set went with serve until Djokovic made the vital breakthrough to lead 4-3. Murray could not find a way back, broken again as the Serbian sealed victory.
“I’m obviously disappointed I lost the match,” said Murray. “But it was a top-quality match. Both of us played some unbelievable tennis at times.
“It was literally the difference of one, two centimetres in winning the match and losing it. You have to put things into perspective. It was obviously a bit frustrating but it was so close and could have been a different outcome.”
Murray beat his rival in five sets in last month’s US Open final to secure Britain’s first men’s Grand Slam singles title since the 1930s, just weeks after his Olympic triumph in front of home fans in London.