After conquering the tennis world in 2011, Novak Djokovic stood as the player to beat in the following season, winning six titles, including the Australian Open, Masters Cup and three Masters 1000 tournaments and finishing as the year-end no.
1 for the second year. Novak did not play in Shanghai in 2011, and he made a strong return a year later to conquer the title and add the seventh different Masters 1000 event to his already excellent collection at 25. The Serb was in great form after losing the Madrid Masters quarter-final on the blue clay back in May, winning 39 of the last 46 encounters before Shanghai and dominating the first four matches in China to set up the final meeting with a two-time champion Andy Murray.
Djokovic produced high-quality tennis at the Qi Zhong Tennis Center, losing serve thrice against Grigor Dimitrov, Feliciano Lopez, Tommy Haas and Tomas Berdych to claim all four triumphs in under an hour and a half. On the other hand, Andy had never lost a match in Shanghai until this final, playing just three encounters to advance into the title match.
A month after their thrilling US Open final that Murray grabbed in five sets in just under five hours, they presented another exciting show with a different outcome. Djokovic claimed a 5-7, 7-6, 6-3 victory in three hours and 21 minutes, making it by far the longest final in Shanghai!
It was their 16th meeting, and Novak scored the ninth triumph after saving no less than five match points in the second set, sailing away in the decider to complete the steal and lift the trophy. Murray converted five out of six break points.
Still, it was not enough to carry him home after getting broken six times from 13 chances offered to Novak. The Briton did not make that extra step and failed to convert his opportunities to deliver the third consecutive Shanghai crown.
The crowd had a chance to enjoy an entertaining battle between two marvelous players that pushed each other to the limits from the baseline all the time in many challenging rallies that lasted for over ten shots. They had a similar number of winners, and Andy made too many unforced errors, unable to tame his strokes in a way he did against Roger Federer and David Ferrer in the previous finals.
Nothing could separate them in the shortest exchanges, and Novak created a small gap in the mid-range and long rallies, winning six points more and showing the spirit of a true champion after repelling all those match points.
Djokovic moved ahead in game two after Murray's backhand error on his third break chance, and the Briton pulled it back immediately after forcing the Serb's error in the third game. Andy held after deuce to level the score at 2-2, and a forehand winner delivered another break for him to gain a 3-2 advantage and momentum.
In 2012, Novak Djokovic saved five match points against Andy Murray in Shanghai.
They were back at 3-3 when Murray netted a routine backhand in the next game, completing just six games in 40 minutes and carving the path for a marathon, just like in New York.
A new break was around the corner, and Murray grabbed it after Djokovic's loose forehand. The Serb broke back a few minutes later after the fourth straight poor service game on both sides! The pivotal moment of the set occurred at 5-5 when Djokovic squandered a 40-0 lead and lost five points in a row to fall 6-5 behind after a loose volley, giving Andy a chance to serve for the opener.
Murray delivered a nice hold and grabbed the set 7-5 after 73 minutes of the grueling and intense battle of the highest order that would continue in set number two. They both served well in the first six games, and Murray created two break chances at 3-3 following Djokovic's backhand mistake.
The first was enough to send the Briton 4-3 up, putting one hand on the trophy after a service winner that pushed him 5-3 ahead. Serving for the third straight Shanghai title in the tenth game, Andy wasted a match point after Novak's forehand winner and sprayed a forehand error to hand the game to his rival, who leveled the score at 5-5 and prolonged the encounter.
The set went into a tie break after two good holds on each side, and Andy opened a 6-4 advantage, with two more match points up for grabs. Novak repelled them with winners like the first one and did the same at 7-8 to deny Murray's fourth chance to close the match.
Andy had the fifth and last match point at 10-9. Still, Novak remained focused and repelled it to stay alive before finally stealing the set with a forehand drive volley winner in the 24th point, setting the decider after almost an hour and a half and standing as the favorite.
Andy saved a break chance in the final set's game five to stay on the positive side after precisely three hours of play before netting a forehand next time he served to lose the game and push Novak 4-3 ahead. The Serb held in game eight with an ace to increase the advantage and broke Andy again when the Briton sprayed a backhand error to celebrate the title and perform one of the best escapes of his entire career.