Andy Murray romped to victory in the Shanghai Masters final against Roger Federer yesterday, recording an eighth win in 13 meetings against the former world No 1, and there was nothing unlucky about the Swiss's defeat.
Scotland's 23-year-old world No 4 took just 85 minutes to take the sixth Masters title of his career, the 6-3, 6-2 scoreline a fair reflection of a superb attacking display that put pressure on Federer from the start.
Murray broke Federer's serve four times, including in the first game of the match to set the tone, while remaining unbroken himself, crediting his improved second serve for that.
Murray's long-standing winning record against Federer – who has 16 Grand Slam titles to Murray's none – has never compensated for the gulf in their achievements, particularly at majors. But having lost his first three tour finals against Federer, including the 2008 US Open final and the 2010 Australian Open final, Murray has now beaten Federer in two tour finals on the bounce. Murray also beat Federer in the Toronto Masters in August.
"I don't find it easy at all, it's incredibly difficult every time," Murray said afterwards of playing Federer. "But I love the challenge of playing against him. I don't fear playing him.
"Every time I go on, I know I need to play great tennis to win against him. I don't know if my game matches up well against his or not. But I've played some of my best tennis against Roger."
Federer admitted "today could have been better", but acknowledged Murray was "the best player of the tournament", but he was also slightly grudging about the manner of his defeat, annoyed at one overrule by the umpire in the second set. The initial call, on a break point on Murray's serve, had gone in Federer's favour but was overturned. "It was a classic bad mistake by the linesperson," he said. "In the end it's what maybe cost me the match."
That was wishful thinking. Murray did not drop a set all week and stormed out of the blocks. He earned his first two set points with a forehand pass down the line, and then crashed a stunning cross-court pass beyond Federer to convert the first of them.
Murray's impressive physical conditioning began to yield its benefits in the second set as he maintained the high tempo and made Federer chase ball after ball. The more Murray pressured Federer, the more errors Federer made, especially on his forehand, and the win was sealed when the Swiss netted a backhand volley on Murray's second match point.
"As a tournament overall I'm very happy with it," Murray said. "I served great, especially when I was behind in the games. I hit the ball well from the back of the court. Against Roger, you have to go after it early. I returned his serve well tonight and got a lot of free points on my serve. My second serve has improved so much since the start of the season.
"I've moved really well all week, the speed was very good tonight. I hit a lot of great shots on the run and you have to come up with a lot of great shots against Federer if you want to beat him."
Federer said: "I thought he played well overall. He didn't give me much. I was missing a few too many shots, which I wish I hadn't because that could have definitely maybe swung momentum around, given me more confidence to play more forward, more attacking. But missing so many important shots really over and over again obviously took a lot of my confidence away. Then the targets seemed to get smaller and smaller. That's definitely his credit, a pity for me."
Murray's win denied Federer the chance to equal Rafael Nadal's record of 18 Masters titles and move joint-fourth with Pete Sampras on the open-era titles list. Instead of 64 titles, he remains stuck for now on 63.
Murray's return to form is timely; earlier in the week, he secured qualification for the World Tour Finals in London next month, when he will play in an eight-man field including the world's top three players Federer, Nadal, and Novak Djokovic, with the occupants of the other four places still to be determined.
Murray v Federer: a rivalry in numbers
6 Number of Masters titles won by Andy Murray
2 Number of Grand Slam defeats Roger Federer has inflicted on Murray
8 Number of times Murray has beaten Federer
5 Matches Murray has lost to Federer in his career
17 Number of sets Federer has won against Murray
17 Number of sets Murray has taken off Federer
0 Sets dropped by Murray en route to his Shanghai Masters title