A below-par Andy Murray kicked off his maiden Masters Cup bid with a sluggish 6-4 1-6 6-1 victory over American Andy Roddick in Shanghai today.
British number one Murray gained the crucial and solitary break in the fifth game of the first set as he was rarely threatened by world number six Roddick.
Murray looked off the pace through the second set, which was won by Roddick in under half an hour, but the world number four looked a different man in the decider and wrapped up the win in 95 minutes at Qi Zhong Tennis Stadium.
The 21-year-old earned his trip to the season-ending showpiece following his best year on the ATP Tour which saw the Scot claim five titles, including back-to-back Masters Series titles in Cincinnati and Madrid.
He went into the red group meeting with a 4-2 record against the world number six, although Roddick was forced to retire during last year's meeting at the Miami Masters.
Murray and Roddick traded service games at the start of the opening set, with the Scot taking the fourth with back-to-back aces before the British number one converted his first break point opportunity on the Roddick serve to take a 3-2 lead.
He made the breakthrough count in the next game as Murray recovered from falling behind to double his lead, which he capped off with his sixth ace in three service games while big-hitting Roddick had racked up just one.
Murray moved 15-30 ahead in the ninth game, but after he sent a return long, Roddick blazed just his second ace before holding out.
But Murray wrapped up the first set in 41 minutes as Roddick sent a return long.
Murray survived two break points at 0-1 at the start of the second set - the second saved courtesy of an expert passing shot with Roddick in at the net.
But Roddick persisted and took a 2-0 lead at his next opportunity as Murray sent an attempted lob sailing over the American's head.
He lost his first challenge during the third game as Roddick opened up a 3-0 lead before an increasingly frustrated Murray shipped a second consecutive break of serve as a string of errors culminated in him plunging the first break point of the game into the net.
Roddick eased through the fifth game to love before the Scot finally got on the board at 1-5.
But that only delayed the inevitable as, after just 29 minutes, Murray sent a forehand return long to sent the contest to a decider.
Murray's first ace since the opening set, which was successfully challenged by the Scot, handed him a 1-0 lead to start to the third set.
Roddick survived two break points at the start of the second game through his third ace and a serve and volley but he was unable to stop Murray converting a third to take a 2-0 lead following a fierce return.
Murray had clearly put the second set collapse behind him as he raced into a 3-0 lead of his own by wrapping up the third game and made it 4-0 inside 17 minutes of the set starting.
Murray was beginning to enjoy himself as the odd fist pump started to appear as he sent the crowd streaming to the exit's after holding serve to open up a 5-0 lead.
Like Murray in the previous set, Roddick got on the board in the sixth game, but Murray served out the set to seal the win.
Murray was satisfied with his performance, particularly because he is suffering from jet-lag - but warns he does not see himself as the new favourite to win the event, even if some observers do.
"Everybody is playing very well, and I'll have to play my best in every match if I want to win," he told Sky Sports 1. "I don't view myself as being favourite. I have struggled a little bit. It is tough to get over the jet-lag, and I hope I feel a bit better for the next match."
In those circumstances, his comfortable victory was encouraging.
"He made it tough for me and made me do a lot of running," Murray added. "In the first set I thought I played pretty well. In the second, I had a chance in the first game to break him. But then he started to play more aggressively; in the third, I felt I was playing better - but it was tough on a very slow court."Reuse content