It was at times astounding, sometimes jaw-dropping and always enthralling, but eventually Novak Djokovic had just enough to defeat a battling Andy Murray in Shanghai with a 5-7 7-6 (11) 6-3 scoreline. In what turned out to be a fantastic showcase for the very best the game has to offer, the two players went toe to toe for well over three hours, and produced some sparkling tennis for the captivated neutrals in attendance.
Murray was looking to make it three in a row as far as the Shanghai Masters is concerned, having tasted victory here in 2010 and 2011. He looked on course to make that a reality as the two players neared the end of a frantic first set with Murray just about keeping his cool.
Djokovic, on the other hand, was looking rattled and – while unable to break down Murray’s resistance – he was able to shatter his own racket, throwing it violently to the floor as Murray took the first set.
But the world no.2 seemed to have regained his composure by time the second set rolled around and part two of the encounter went with serve for six games before Murray managed an apparently crucial break. Leading 4-3 in the second, Murray looked confident, allowed Djokovic to coast through his service game without breaking sweat and took up position to serve for the championship.
It was here that Djokovic truly began to show his worth. Following the histrionics of the previous set and a failed challenge, you’d forgive Djokovic for going to pieces here. But that just ain’t Novak’s way. Instead, he muscles himself back into a stupendous rally that sees both players at their very best. Djokovic returns with a cheeky hotdog, but Murray gets there; the Scotsman doesn’t get to Djokovic’s deft dropshot follow up, however, and is left sprawling at thin air. Djokovic is smiling once more; a true turning point in an amazing match.
The second set was decided by a tie break that lasted well over 20 minutes and saw Murray bring his cumulative ‘championship point’ total up to five. Djokovic saved them all and eventually took the set, leaving Murray looking stunned.
But both players rallied for a final set that delivered stunning tennis, nail-biting drama and lactic acid seemingly in equal measure. The set went with serve until 3-3 when Djokovic finally broke Murray in a mirror image of the 7th game of the second set.
Djokovic holds in the next game but an exhausted Murray keeps pace right up to a torturously long rally at 5-3. Djokovic prevails, Murray looks stunned; a deserved victory for the Serb but a match which both players can look back on with their heads held high.