Mur­ray eyes top rank­ing af­ter vic­tory in Shang­hai

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Andy Mur­ray’s season is turn­ing out even bet­ter than he ex­pected: He’s won a se­cond Wim­ble­don ti­tle and a se­cond Olympic gold medal, and reached the fi­nals at the Aus­tralian Open and French Open.

And on Sun­day, he clinched his sixth ti­tle of the year with a 7-6 (1), 6-1 vic­tory over Roberto Bautista Agut at the Shang­hai Masters, match­ing his season-high to­tal from 2009.

Now the Scot has his eyes set on yet an­other prize: the No. 1 rank­ing. It may be dif­fi­cult to catch No­vak Djokovic this year, but Mur­ray is clos­ing in on his ri­val.

“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,” Mur­ray 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.”

With Roger Fed­erer in­jured, Rafael Nadal still try­ing to re­gain his con­fi­dence and Djokovic deal­ing with the ef­fects of an ex­haust­ing season, Mur­ray has es­tab­lished him­self as the dom­i­nant force in the game as the year winds down.

He cred­its the re­turn of Ivan Lendl to his coach­ing team, cou­pled with his vic­tory at Wim­ble­don af­ter sev­eral tough losses in slam fi­nals, for giv­ing him the be­lief he could com­pete for ma­jor cham­pi­onships again.

“It helped mo­ti­vate me,” he said. “Re­ally since the French Open, (I’ve) played the best three months of ten­nis of my career.”

He hasn’t let up in the post-US Open fi­nal stretch of the season, ei­ther. Since ar­riv­ing in China two weeks ago, he hasn’t lost a set in 10 matches and has cap­tured back-to-back ti­tles at the China Open and Shang­hai Masters.

Mur­ray’s win on Sun­day was also his tour-best 65th of the season and gave him his 41st career ti­tle, ty­ing Stefan Ed­berg for 15th place on the all-time list.

Bautista Agut made it hard for him at the start, how­ever. The Spa­niard, equally at home on hard courts as he is on clay, pinned Mur­ray to the back of the court with pow­er­ful fore­hands and sharp an­gles for much of the first set, keeping the se­cond-seeded Scot on the de­fen­sive and forc­ing him to make 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.

While Mur­ray still has a cou­ple of tour­na­ments left this year, in­clud­ing the ATP Tour Fi­nals in London, he’s al­ready look­ing for­ward to next season and his next ma­jor chal­lenge of over­tak­ing Djokovic for the No. 1 rank­ing, which the Serb has held since July 2014. The tim­ing couldn’t be bet­ter. Djokovic has been off his game since com­plet­ing his career Grand Slam with a vic­tory at the French Open ear­lier this season and has talked in re­cent weeks about putting less pres­sure on him­self to win more slams and hold onto the top rank­ing.

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.”

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