Andy Murray wins Shanghai Masters

Andy Murray wins Shanghai Masters
October 17 05:41 2016

Andy Murray has burned through China in remorseless fashion. Since arriving in Beijing 2½ weeks ago, he has delivered arguably the most dominant sequence of his career, winning 10 straight matches that concluded on Sunday in a 7-6, 6-1 victory in the Shanghai final against Roberto Bautista Agut. Not a single set has been dropped.

In rankings terms, he is looming ever closer in Novak Djokovic’s rear-view mirror. In the Race to London – which gathers rankings points collected in the 2016 season – the margin is just 915 points, fewer than the 1,000 that Murray collected on Sunday.

After his victory, Murray remained realistic about his prospects of toppling Djokovic. “I for sure have a chance just now,” Murray said. “I have never had success like I have had the last few months in my career so to keep that going, I’m aware it’s going to be a difficult thing to do.

“I need to keep myself motivated and be smart but I believe I can get there. These last few months have proved that to me. I may never get another chance to be No 1, so I’ll give it my best shot to do that while I have the opportunity.

“I did feel like I played better this week than last week. In all of the matches I was hitting the ball pretty clean.

“It wasn’t that easy to come in and play really well straightaway, because the conditions were very different. I think I played four top-25 players this week and played some really good tennis against all of them. But I got a good start against Steve Johnson and kept it up from there.”

The argument is a logical one, yet you only have to look at Murray’s itinerary to see that he scents blood. Next weekend, he will travel to Vienna, where he plans to participate in the second Tie Break Tens event on Sunday before entering the 500-point Erste Bank Open. Djokovic, who has been complaining about burnout since his runner-up finish at the US Open, will not be in action at all, and neither will many of the other leading men. In fact, the next-highest ranked player in Vienna will be world No 9 Tomas Berdych.

After that, the tour will move on to its two biggest indoor events – the Paris Masters and the ATP World Tour Finals, where Djokovic does indeed have a remarkable record. The world No. 1 has won 29 of his last 30 “live” matches at these two events, dating back to November 2012. And even then, his only loss came in a match against Roger Federer in a pool encounter last year, where his qualification had already been confirmed by that stage.

It will be fascinating to see how Djokovic reacts to this challenge to his supremacy. After the US Open, he told reporters that he needed to stop pushing himself as hard as he had done in the build-up to his long-awaited victory at the French Open. ”I psychologically felt huge pressure,” he said, “and now I’m no longer thinking about the number of titles. If they come, super, I will accept them. After all, tennis is not the only thing in the world.”

In Shanghai, the world No. 1 was never at his ruthless best. He did come up with an unexpected solution in the middle of his quarter-final against Mischa Zverev, humming a popular hit (he couldn’t remember which one) to help himself stay in the moment and ignore his own uncharacteristic errors.

But this detachment soon evaporated in the semi-final defeat against Bautista Agut, when he trashed his racket, and laid into chair umpire Carlos Bernardes.

Murray has not been all sweetness and light himself this week, and you could see how much he wanted Sunday’s victory when he tightened up towards the end of the first set. Directing numerous tirades towards his player’s box, Murray dropped his serve to let Bautista Agut equalise for 5-5. But he responded with three aces in his next service game, and when he reeled off seven straight points to take the tie-break 7-1, any prospect of an upset had evaporated.

Telegraph UK