Twelve months ago I wrote of how Andy Murray must be wishing there was an indoor Grand Slam held in Asia. The British star has enjoyed more consistent success during the three week Asian swing than at any other period in the season.
Murray's razor-sharp returning is a big weapon on the fast indoor hard courts. Serve normally holds sway but Murray's ability to exert extra pressure during his opponent's service games gives him a crucial psychological advantage. And with his uncanny ability to sense where the ball's being struck, it's not easy to hit him off the court
Lets take a look at some of Murray's most defining career moments in the Far East so far:
Thailand Open final 2005 "
Andy will become a good player, I am sure of that. I also lost my first final when I made it onto the tour. This time he had to face the number one in the world, but it is great experience for him."
Roger Federer's comments after beating Murray 6-3, 7-5 in the ATP Bangkok final seem quite amusing now but back then Murray was an unknown quantity having just emerged from the murky depths of the challenger and futures circuit three months earlier with his stunning performances on the grass.
Having began 2005 ranked outside the top 400, the 18 year old broke the top 100 for the first time en route to his first main tour final in the Thai capital. In the quarter-finals he saw off future French Open finalist Robin Soderling in the first of many close battles on the tour but it was his spirited showing against the then invincible Federer which convinced many he had what it took to reach the higher echelons of the game.
Masters Cup (Shanghai) 2008
Murray qualified for tennis' end of year eight-player extravaganza (then known as the Masters Cup) for the first time back in 2008. And the British star proved an instant hit with the Chinese fans as he topped his group with three wins out of three.
Having lost to Federer at the US Open, Murray enjoyed some sweet revenge as he sent the defending champion crashing out of the competition, edging a thrilling three set battle 4-6, 7-6(3), 7-5 in over three hours.
However Murray's determination to knock Federer out potentially cost him a shot at the title as he looked spent against Nikolay Davydenko in the semi-finals the following day, going down 7-5, 6-2
Shanghai Masters 2010
Murray has an incredible record at the penultimate Masters 1000 event of the year - he's never lost a match in Shanghai winning the title on both his appearances so far, in 2010 and 2012. Murray's performances two years ago were simply electric as he swept to the title without dropping a set, crushing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-2, 6-2 in the last eight and even more impressively, destroying Roger Federer 6-3, 6-2 in the final, one of the most one-sided defeats the Swiss has suffered in the past few years.
"He had an outstanding tournament," the 29 year old Federer said afterwards. "It's not easy to win these Masters 1000 tournaments. I know how tough they are to win so congratulations on a great effort"
Asian Swing 2011
After the disappointment of losing in the 2011 US Open semi-finals, Murray returned to the tour with a vengeance a few weeks later, winning all three titles on the Asian indoor swing. Having made his first main tour final in Bangkok six years earlier, returning to the Thai capital was always going to be a special moment for the Brit and he fully justified his top seeded billing, easing through the rounds before claiming the title with a comfortable win over left-hander Donald Young.
Things were always going to get a little tougher at the Japan Open (an ATP 500 event) the following week but Murray was on a different planet to the rest of the field as he dismantled David Ferrer 6-2, 6-3 in the semis and then produced one of his best ever performances against Nadal to win the title, coming from a set down to bagel the Spaniard in the decider.
"I played some great tennis and the third set was some of the best I've played against him," Murray said afterwards. "There were a lot of close games towards the end of the first set and beginning of the second and I managed to get the momentum and didn't give him many chances after that. I was very consistent, didn't make too many mistakes and kept a cool head in the important moments."
And the best was still to come as Murray completed a clean sweep of the silverware in the Far East, defending his Shanghai Masters title. With Nadal and Novak Djokovic struggling with fatigue and Federer opting to skip the event, Murray didn't have to be at his very best but he still had to see off the fast rising Kei Nishikori and the ever-present Ferrer to win the eighth Masters title of his career