After conquering the world of tennis in 2011, Novak Djokovic stood as the player to beat in 2012, 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 didn't play in Shanghai in 2011, returning strong a year later to conquer the title and add the seventh different Masters 1000 event to his already fantastic collection at 25. The Serb was in great form after losing in the quarter-final of Madrid Masters on the blue clay back in May, winning 39 of the last 46 encounters before heading to Shanghai, dominating the first four matches 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 and had to play just three matches to advance into the title match, skipping the second round when Florian Mayer gave him a walkover.
A month after their thrilling US Open final that Murray grabbed in five sets in just under five hours, they presented another thrilling 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 but it wasn't enough, getting broken six times from 13 chances offered to Novak and not making that one extra step and convert any of his chances that could have delivered the third consecutive Shanghai crown to him.
The crowd had the opportunity 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 more than ten shots.
They had a similar number of winners, but Andy made too many unforced errors, unable to tame his shots 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 overall and showing the spirit of a true champion after repelling all those match points.
Djokovic moved ahead in game two after a backhand error from Murray on his third break point, but the Briton pulled it back immediately after forcing an error from the Serb in the third game. Andy held after a deuce to level the score at 2-2, and a forehand winner delivered another break for him, gaining a 3-2 advantage and the momentum.
In 2012, Novak Djokovic saved five match points against Andy Murray in Shanghai.
Still, 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 a loose forehand from Novak, who 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, losing 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 of the second set, and it was Murray who created two break chances at 3-3 following a backhand mistake from Djokovic.
The first one 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 a forehand winner from Novak 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 it was Andy who moved 6-4 ahead, with two more match points up for grabs. Like the first one, Novak repelled them with winners and did the same at 7-8 to deny Murray's fourth chance to close the match.
Andy had the fifth and the last match point at 10-9, but Novak was again too good, staying alive and 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 following those match points he fended off.
Andy saved a break chance in game five to stay on the positive side of the scoreboard after exactly three hours of play, 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.
• Beijing Flashback: Novak Djokovic makes three-peat• Marion Bartoli details why Novak Djokovic is 'the perfect tennis athlete'• Beijing Flashback: Novak Djokovic tops David Ferrer, defends title• Marion Bartoli highlights one thing in Novak Djokovic-Carlos Alcaraz rivalry• Andy Murray shades Novak Djokovic after old footage of Serb hitting Roger Federer • Beijing Flashback: Novak Djokovic starts his reign