Novak Djokovic gained sweet revenge for his US Open defeat to Andy Murray yesterday, 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 be beaten and sealed his 13th Masters title in a contest lasting 3 hours, 21 minutes as he pursues Swiss star 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 tiebreak that lasted more than 20 minutes, which the second seed won to stay alive in the match.
The defeat was third seed Murray’s first loss at the Shanghai Masters after he won the tournament in 2010 and last year.
“Could have easily gone the other way. He was five match points up,” Djokovic said. “When I faced those match points, I tried to focus on each individually.”
“We were very close,” he said. “It was a very even match throughout the whole three sets.”
Murray was magnanimous in defeat.
“I’m obviously disappointed I lost the match,” Murray said. “But it was a top-quality match. Both of us played some unbelievable tennis at times.”
“It was literally the difference of one, two centimeters 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,” he said.
A grueling 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.
However, Murray, 25, made what proved to be the crucial breakthrough in the 11th game, recovering from 0-40 to break for a 6-5 lead as an infuriated Djokovic destroyed his racket, tossing it away in disgust.
It was a different story in the second set, with both players secure on serve until the defending champion broke in the seventh game to lead 4-3 when Djokovic netted with a volley.
Agonizingly for Murray, 25-year-old Djokovic, refusing to be beaten, saved a match point to pull level at 5-5 and the set went into the dramatic tiebreak.
The Serbian denied the Scot four more times in the shootout, sealing the set with a drive volley that was followed by a trademark fist-pumping celebration as the Scot destroyed his racket.
Two breaks in the decider were enough for Djokovic to claim an unlikely victory.
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.
Djokovic came into the match on a 9-0 winning streak since losing to Murray in New York, a run that included his third China Open title.
The Serbian enjoyed one of the finest seasons in tennis history last year, winning three Grand Slams.
He is hot on the heels of Federer as he tries to secure the year-end No. 1 ranking for the second year in a row.