- Murray defeats Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6, 6-1 in final
- Straight-sets victory extends Murray’s winning run to 10 matches
Andy Murray was not thinking about replacing Novak Djokovic as the world No1 at the start of the year. Now, after winning his sixth title of 2016 thanks to a comfortable 7-6, 6-1 victory over Roberto Bautista Agut in the final of the Shanghai Masters on Sunday, it is a realistic target.
Back when Djokovic crushed Murray in the Australian Open final in January, before meting out similar treatment in the French Open in June, the Serb looked untouchable. But it hardly needs to be pointed out that nothing lasts forever – after all, last week began with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal dropping out of the top four for the first time in 13 years – and while Djokovic has found it impossible to shake off the physical and mental dip that started with his shock defeat by Sam Querrey at Wimbledon, Murray has been in the form of his life in recent months, inching ever closer to his great rival at the top of the rankings.
The Wimbledon and Olympic champion’s win against Bautista Agut, who stunned Djokovic in their semi-final on Saturday, cut the deficit to 915 points. Murray has adjusted his target. “My goal wasn’t to finish No1 at the end of this year but in the early parts of next year there is an opportunity – 900 points doesn’t seem like loads,” the Scot said.
Murray’s determination to keep expectations at a realistic level was understandable, although there is a chance that he could overtake Djokovic on 7 November, with the ATP World Tour finals in London still to come. The complex nature of the ATP rankings system means that victories for Murray in Vienna this week and the Paris Masters next month, combined with Djokovic failing to reach the final in Paris, would take him to No1 for the first time in his career.
For now, however, Murray is urging caution, pointing to Djokovic’s outstanding record in indoor tournaments. Djokovic is the defending champion in Paris and he is unlikely to let go of his London title without a fight. “Novak will win matches,” Murray said. “He is the best player in the world.”
That last point is debatable given recent results. Murray has played some wonderful tennis since impressing during the clay season, winning his second Wimbledon with a composed victory over Milos Raonic and defending his Olympic singles title with an epic victory against Juan Martín del Potro in Brazil. There have been disappointments – the quarter-final defeat by Kei Nishikori at the US Open and losing his rubber against Del Potro when Argentina beat Great Britain in the Davis Cup semi-final last month, but Murray has mostly been impeccable.
“In the last few months I have won a lot of matches and made improvements,” Murray said. “I have been moving forward better and changed the direction of the ball better. I have also come up with some bigger serves when I have needed them.”
He was far too strong for Bautista Agut, the world No15, despite a brief wobble at the business end of the first set. After he broke in the seventh game Murray’s concentration faltered when he served for the set at 5-4, wasting three set points and allowing Bautista Agut to break back.
However, he blew the Spaniard away in the tie-break, winning it 7-1, and he was ruthless in the second set, racing away with it despite dropping his serve when he led 2-0. He responded by winning four successive games, overpowering Bautista Agut with his groundstrokes, to claim his third Shanghai title without dropping a set throughout the tournament – the same impressive feat he produced to win his first China Open title the week before.
It is all building up to a fascinating finale. The momentum belongs to Murray at the moment. But the Scot knows better than anyone never to write off Djokovic, who has proved beyond doubt that he is the ultimate fighter.Heather Watson and Naomi Broady were beaten 6-3, 6-1 by sisters Chan Hao-ching and Chan Yung-jan in the doubles final at the Hong Kong Open.
Reviving a partnership that saw them win through two rounds at Wimbledon this year, Watson and Broady enjoyed a strong week in the doubles after early singles exits. It was their first final together, but the long-standing friends found their experienced opponents too strong.
The Chan siblings collected their third trophy of the year, cementing their place among the world’s elite doubles players.
Broady said on BT Sport: “I want to congratulate our opponents. You’ve had a fantastic year, you’re in the top five in the world for a reason and you were too good for us tonight so well done.
“I want to thank my partner. We’ve been best friends since we were about nine years old so to arrive at a final together on the same side of the net is just awesome, and I really enjoyed playing with her.”