Shanghai Masters: Murray ends Nishikori’s run
Andy Murray makes short work of Kei Nishikori to reach Shanghai Masters final with a 6-3 6-0 victory
Kei Nishikori opened his semi-final match in Shanghai with considerable fire to take a love opening game. But the defending champion and the top-performing man in the Far East, Andy Murray, was having none of it.
With so much at stake in the remaining two matches of the Asian swing, Murray might be expected to have a few nerves as he gets closer to winning his second consecutive Shanghai Masters.
Not only is there the small matter of defending his title, of continuing his blistering run of 23 wins in his last 24 matches, and of taking his third straight title. Murray is also on the verge of overtaking Roger Federer in the rankings for the first time in his career.
But to achieve all these targets, Murray had to get past the young Japanese star who has been making headlines and breaking records all week.
Nishikori had not even made a Masters quarter-final before this week and he had now become the first Asian to reach a Masters semi-final since Thailand’s Paradorn Srichaphan in 2006. Nishikori had, in the process, guaranteed himself the highest ever ranking by a Japanese player, predicted to be around 32 by next week.
But despite a blistering opening service game from the 21-year-old Nishikori”” a reminder of the extrovert shot-making of which he is capable of””Murray took hold of the match in the blink of an eye. He broke in the third game and held a 3-1 lead after just 10 minutes. He broke again, to love, at 5-3 to take the first set in 25 minutes.
Murray’s winner-to-error count was 11 to four, his first serve percentage 82, and he won 14 out of 14 points on his first serve. He lost just one point on serve in the whole 25-minute set.
But if that was not enough to take the wind out of the Japanese man’s sails, Murray’s serving level dropped in the second set to 50 percent yet he still won 28 points compared with 12 from his opponent in a whitewash scoreline, 6-0.
By the end of this one-sided match, the Japanese man seemed to be carrying a slight ankle problem but even a 100 percent Nishikori would have made little impact on the remarkably complete, compact and confident tennis coming from the Murray racket.
So Murray progresses to the final, in just 56 minutes, with as little effort as he could wish for. His only test in the tournament came in the first of only three matches he has had to play. He dropped the second set to Stan Wawrinka but has since lost only eight games.
Murray’s final opponent David Ferrer, on the other hand, has not stopped running since he arrived in Shanghai. Milos Raonic taxed him 7-5, 7-6, Juan-Carlos Ferrero was a set and a break up before Ferrer fought back the win, and Andy Roddick had him at a set down before Ferrer wrestled back a 6-7, 6-2, 7-6 victory.
In his semi-final, too, he faced the daunting Feliciano Lopez, went a set down, but came back to win in his third three-setter in a row.
Most ordinary men would be out for the count after these daily rigours. Ferrer, when it comes to fitness, however, is as tough as they come but now he faces another of the fittest men on the tour in Murray. What’s more, it’s a Murray who is relaxed, confident and winning with ease.
Murray has never lost to Ferrer on hard courts and he beat him only last week in Tokyo for the loss of just five games. So the No4 in the world will be the favourite over the No5 and, if he wins, he will become the No3.
So far, there has not been a hint of nerves in the Murray game, but perhaps that will change as he reflects on the enormity of what he is about to achieve.
Then again, judging from his tennis and his demeanour since winning in Cincinnati, it seems there is nothing that can upset the scorching Scot.