SHANGHAI — Andy Murray defeated Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6 (1), 6-1 to win the Shanghai Masters on Sunday, his second title in as many weeks and the sixth overall in what is shaping up to be his most successful season on tour.
Bautista Agut challenged Murray with his powerful forehands and sharp angles in the first set, keeping the second-seeded Scot on the defensive and forcing him to commit errors.
Serving for the set at 5-4, Murray appeared distracted by movement in the crowd and wasted three set points before Bautista Agut broke back to level the match. Murray settled down in the tiebreaker, however, and closed out the second set in just 31 minutes.
He had 16 unforced errors in the opening set, but only three after that.
Bautista Agut, the 15th-seeded Spaniard, upset No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the semifinals, but faced an uphill task to capture the title: No player outside the top 10 had beaten the top two ranked players in the same tournament since David Nalbandian beat Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to win the Paris Masters in 2007.
Plus, he had to play Murray. And nobody is performing better on tour at the moment.
After triumphing at Wimbledon and the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Murray hasn’t let up this autumn: He hasn’t lost a set in his last 10 matches in Asia, winning back-to-back titles at the China Open and in Shanghai.
His win on Sunday was also his tour-best 65th of the season and gave him his sixth trophy, which ties a career best.
With Federer injured, Nadal still trying to regain his confidence and Djokovic dealing with the effects of a mentally exhausting season, Murray has established himself as the clear dominant force in the game.
He credits the return of Ivan Lendl to his coaching team this year, coupled with his victory at Wimbledon after several tough losses in slam finals, for giving him the belief he could compete for the top prizes again.
“Really since the French Open, (I’ve) played the best three months of tennis of my career,” he said.
The only thing left is the top ranking, and he’s closing in fast on that, too. It may be difficult to catch Djokovic this year, but Murray is already looking ahead to next season.
“I will try to finish this year as strong as I can. And next year if the opportunity is there to reach No. 1, then I want to try and take it,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough thing to achieve that. I’m aware of that.”
“But I believe I can get there. … These last few months have proved that to me.”
Bautista Agut said he thinks the way Murray is playing, it’s only a matter of time.
“Andy is doing everything to get Novak,” he said. “I can see it in his eyes. He’s really focused on getting No. 1”