Andy Murray impresses in Shanghai opener to set up Janowicz rematch

Andy Murray beats Teymuraz Gabashvili in straight sets to reach the second round of the Shanghai Masters

Tough though his draw may be, Andy Murray may reasonably expect to make a good run through the penultimate Masters tournament of the year in Shanghai.

He was unable to play last year while he recovered from back surgery, but the Briton reached the finals of this hugely popular tournament in the three previous years, and won the title in 2010 and 2011.

Not only did that represent an impressive 12-1 record at the Qi Zhong Tennis Center, but Murray also arrived this year with the Shenzhen title and a semi-final finish in Beijing.

But Murray also has a little extra incentive—the World Tour Finals in November. Still outside the top eight at No9 in the Race, he needs to close the gap on those above him—Kei Nishikori, Marin Cilic, Tomas Berdych and Milos Raonic—and maintain his advantage over David Ferrer and Grigor Dimitrov, who sit at 10 and 11, fewer than 150 points behind him.

And Murray’s form on Chinese courts was on full show as he took on the No55-ranked qualifier, Teymuraz Gabashvili.

He made two straight breaks of serve in a spectacular opening from which the Russian might have expected a rather better scoreline. For although Gabashvili was playing some fine tennis, Murray was on fire, chasing down smashes, firing angled forehand returns, looking every inch the former Shanghai champion.

Murray served out to love with an ace to make it 4-0, and then again to make it 5-1. With 27 minutes on the clock, he was a set up, 6-1.

Murray wavered briefly in the first game of the second set, and Gabashvili was ready and waiting to pounce on a couple poor shots from the Briton. Murray conceded an immediate break, but retaliated straight away.

An eager Gabashvili, though, took advantage of a lapse in concentration from Murray to rush the Briton into more errors. The Russian chased to the net enthusiastically, varied the angles, unleashed some big forehands, and broke again, drawing a time violation for Murray in the process.

But it’s a fine line between exuberant control and over-exuberant errors, and Gabashvili began to step over that line as the set reached its climax.

Murray’s concentration was back and he kept testing the Russian’s firepower with some impressive defence and powerful plays from the baseline. Serving for the set, Gabashvili played some spectacular shots, but Murray responded in kind, and drew just enough errors to break.

With the Briton now fully engaged, he did not drop another game: Murray sealing the win, 7-5.

Both men had clearly enjoyed much of this match, just as the crowds had, and exchanged warm words and smiles at the net. However Murray may not find the rest of his draw too much fun. He next faces Jerzy Janowicz, who has given him big problems in the past—most recently taking the first set from Murray in Beijing.

Next up could be Ferrer, desperate for points though in a bit of a trough of form, and looming in the quarters is Novak Djokovic, who won his fifth Beijing title at the weekend in scintillating style. The world No1 is the man in the draw who can match Murray’s Shanghai: Djokovic has won here for the last two years.

And should Murray come through all that, the semis are likely to throw him Roger Federer, Nishikori or Dimitrov.

In the bottom half headed by Rafael Nadal, however, the upsets continued. After Marin Cilic lost his first-round match, fellow London hopeful Ernests Gulbis made a lack-lustre exit to Mikhail Youzhny, 6-4, 6-1, in just 66 minutes.

And in the upper quarter, No15 seed Fabio Fognini lost to the world No553, Chuhan Wang, 7-6(5), 6-4. Playing with a wild card, the 22-year-old Chinese man saved four of five break points, and goes on to play qualifier Malek Jaziri for a chance possibly to play Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka.

As for Murray’s London campaign, he would not be drawn on his hopes of qualifying, though his success or otherwise in Shanghai will play a big part: “I’ll see where I’m at when I get back from [Shanghai]. If I’ve still got a shot, then I’ll definitely go for it. The past few years, I’ve been lucky going into Paris safe. It’ll be interesting being in a different position this year, when anything can happen. There’ll be pressure on everyone.”

Nadal himself is rumoured to be taking antibiotics after being diagnosed with appendicitis, but the second seed intends to continue playing in Shanghai. He will take on Feliciano Lopez in his opener.

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