On this day: Andy Murray stays on Djokovic's trail with title in Shanghai


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On this day: Andy Murray stays on Djokovic's trail with title in Shanghai

Nikolay Davydenko won the inaugural Shanghai Masters title in 2009 and it was all about Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray after that, with coevals claiming six of the next seven editions of the penultimate Masters 1000 tournament of the season to stand as the most successful players there.

Andy lifted the trophy in 2010 and 2011, bouncing back in 2016 to claim the third crown, defeating the first-time Masters 1000 finalist Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6, 6-1 in an hour and 37 minutes. Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka lost before the quarter-final stage and it should have been the battle between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, just like in the entire 2016 season.

Novak had a significant lead on the ATP ranking list over Murray after winning Roland Garros but Andy was the player to beat in the second part of the season, conquering nine tournaments overall and finishing the year with 24 straight wins to overcome the Serb and finish as the year-end no.

1 player for the first and only time. Kicking off the campaign with three commanding wins, Murray got broken four times against Gilles Simon in the semi-final but still closed the match in straight sets after an excellent performance on the return, having an open way towards the title when Roberto Bautista Agut stunned Djokovic 6-4, 6-4 in the semi-final.

It was their third meeting and the third win for Andy who managed to break rival's resistance in the second set to sail towards the title, his 13th at Masters 1000 level. The Briton served at only 52% but kept his second serve safe, suffering two breaks and stealing rival's serve on four occasions to emerge as a winner after a tight opener.

Murray tamed his shots more efficiently, hitting more winners and a fewer number of unforced errors, having the upper hand in the shortest and mid-range rallies to seal the deal in straight sets. Bautista Agut stayed in touch in the longest points and despite a great effort in the opener, he failed to deliver his best tennis in the breaker, which turned out to be the pivotal moment of the entire encounter.

We saw six straight holds without any chance for returners at the beginning of the match, with Andy scoring a break in game seven to move ahead after a backhand error from his rival. The Briton held after a service winner to increase his lead to 5-3 and had three set points on serve in the tenth game to bring the opener home.

Bautista Agut fended them off and broke back with a forehand winner to level the score at 5-5 and prolong the set, gaining a massive boost for the rest of the set. Carried by this momentum, the Spaniard fired another forehand winner in game 11 to move ahead, forcing Andy to serve for staying in the set.

In a manner of a true champion, Murray fired four winners for hold and grabbed seven straight points in the tie break to seal it with a return winner after a grueling 64 minutes. Andy held in the first game of the second set with an ace and broke Bautista Agut at love in game two after a backhand error from the Spaniard.

Nonetheless, Andy sprayed a forehand error in the third game to lose serve but was back in front a few minutes later after a double fault from Roberto, moving 4-1 ahead with a service winner and securing the victory with another break in game six that sent him a game away from the title.

Murray was over the finish line after a smash winner in the seventh game, celebrating his third Shanghai crown and clinching the 54th win in the last 59th matches to close the gap to Novak Djokovic in the battle for the ATP throne ahead of the remaining tournaments of the season.