ATP Shanghai Open: Djokovic Beats Murray in Three-Set Epic
By Chandrashekar Srinivasan | October 14, 2012 11:12 PM EST
World number two Novak Djokovic prevailed over Great Britain's Andy Murray in a physically and emotionally draining three-set contest, beating the Scot 5-7, 7-6 (13-11), 6-3.
The win is the Serbian's third ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title this season, following wins in Miami (where he also beat Murray) and Toronto. It is the 12th Masters title of Djokovic's career and ends Murray's two-year domination of the tournament. The Scot won the title in 2010 and 2011, beating Roger Federer and David Ferrer respectively.
Two of the top professionals in the men's singles game started in the most unconvincing of fashions, with an incredible six service breaks in the first eight games.
Djokovic took first serve and despite a few nervy moments, particularly in long rallies, the big-serving Serb managed two big-kicking first serves to close out the first game.
Murray's first service game brought the first break of the match and an indication of just how accomplished baseline players these two are, with a 20+shot rally early in the game. Djokovic just about won that rally to set up his first break point. The Scot fought back with a brilliant forehand winner and forced more errors from the Serb. However, errors (forced or otherwise) seemed to be the trademark of these opening exchanges and Djokovic wrapped up the first break after Murray pushed his backhand wide.
The Scot then played some irresistible tennis over the next two games to level the match 2-2. That was the sign for a deluge of service breaks, with the two players trading the next two games to take the score to 4-4 after the sixth break.
Djokovic finally found some of the missing composure from his first serve in the ninth game, to go 5-4 up and forced Murray to serve under pressure. The 2012 US Open champion responded with a comical tenth game. First, Murray served not one but two double faults and Djokovic then matched his opponent for poor play by giving those points straight back to him. Murray finally closed out the game with a backhand winner.
The 11th game was as titanic as any before it and, like the match so far, filled with both moments of brilliance (Murray's return of serve at deuce) and lunacy (an explosion of rage from Djokovic that earned him an umpire's warning). When the dust settled, though, it was the seventh break of the match and from 4-5 and 0-30 down, Murray was now 6-5 in the lead. All the Scot had to do was hold his serve in the 12th game and he did that despite an error at 30-0 up.
- First Set: Andy Murray 7-5
Djokovic started the second with purpose, holding his serve to go 1-0 up and then forcing errors from Murray in the second game. The Scot only just managed to hold on to his serve in the second game.
The third game produced an absolutely brilliant and intense rally and the Serb fired his first ace of the match to make it 2-1. Incredibly, where the first set produced seven breaks of serve in 12 games, there was none so far in the second. The pair traded service games to the seventh game, when an under-pressure Djokovic dropped a groundstroke into the net to give Murray a 15-30 lead. He needed no further invitation and forced the service break to go 4-3 up, following that with a series of powerful serves to force a 5-3 advantage on Djokovic's serve.
The World No 2 fought back to 4-5 and after a roller-coaster 10th game, which included some outrageous hitting by Djokovic, the match was level at 5-5. The pair held their next two service games to force a second set tiebreak at 6-6. And, in keeping with the theme of the night, the tiebreak stretched to 24 points amid some fantastic tennis. Djokovic, however, eventually prevailed, despite three championship points for Murray and an early mini-break.
- Second Set: Djokovic 7-6 (13-11)
The match, after just two sets, was already a display of some of the finest singles tennis in recent seasons, with both players producing world-class performances. Murray took serve in the third set and two wonderful returns of serves and more errors from the Serb helped Murray to 1-0.
Djokovic responded by holding his own to make it 1-1 but by this time, such was the physical intensity of the first two sets, both players had begun making errors. The third set continued on serve, with Murray's service returns beginning to trouble Djokovic again. The Scot's groundstrokes may not have had the raw power of the first set but he was beginning to display precision and placement that Djokovic was clearly lacking. In addition, physical fatigue was accompanied by tired muscles and longer breaks in between points.
Murray was beginning to look more tired... more exhausted... than Djokovic and the points started falling the Serb's way. On more than a couple of occasions, the Scot opted out of chasing returns and conceded the points... simply because, he recognised, he did not have the energy. Djokovic took a vital service break in the seventh game, looking to force the issue at 4-3 on his serve. The Serb then took a giant step to victory in an epic match with the World No 2 holding his nerve to make his third ace and take a 5-3 lead. The pressure, then, was squarely on Murray.
In truth, the match was over at 5-3. Murray knew he was beaten and although he refused to surrender, he was physically unable to match a suddenly rejuvenated Djokovic. The Brit staved off two championship points but an over-hit backhand gave Djokovic an incredible three-set win and the 2012 Shanghai Open title.
Third Set: Djokovic 6-3
Novak Djokovic bt Andy Murray 5-7, 7-6 (13-11), 6-3
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