Shanghai, China – Novak Djokovic saved five match points and gutted out a three-set win over Andy Murray to capture the Shanghai Masters title for the first time.
Djokovic rallied for a 5-7, 7-6 (13-11), 6-3 win in Sunday's final to claim his 33rd career title and fifth of 2012. He also won last week in Beijing and has won 10 straight matches since a loss to Murray in the final of the U.S. Open last month.
That five-set match at Flushing Meadows included a marathon 22-point tiebreaker that Murray won. Sunday's 24-point tiebreak went in Djokovic's favor and propelled him to his tour-leading 70th match win of the year, while ending Murray's two-year reign as Shanghai champ.
"It was a disappointing one to lose," said Murray. "I've lost tougher matches than that before in the biggest events, so I'm sure I'll recover from it pretty well."
Murray broke serve for 6-5 in the first set -- the seventh break of serve in the set -- and held to win it, then broke once in the second and was serving for the match at 5-4. He gained his first match point at 40-30, but Djokovic blasted a forehand winner and broke back moments later when Murray sailed a forehand long.
Djokovic saved four more match points during the epic tiebreaker, and finally won it with a forehand winner. He then broke serve for a 4-3 lead in the third and won the next two games to close out the match in 3 hours and 21 minutes.
"We had so many rallies in 3 1/2 hours; for a best-of-three set match it is a very long time," said Djokovic. "Could have easily gone the other way. He was five match points up. When I faced those match points, I tried to focus on each individually. He was so close to the victory that I cannot say I was the better player."
Murray was gunning for his fourth title of 2012, having captured an Australian Open tune-up in Brisbane and the London Olympics gold medal before his breakthrough Grand Slam crown in New York. He was a semifinal loser last week in Japan and fell to 3-4 in title matches this year.
"It's not like I threw the match away," noted Murray. "I didn't make any real glaring errors or anything. When I had my chances, he just served very well and hit a couple of lines when he needed to."
Djokovic, now 5-5 in finals this year, improved to 9-7 all-time against Murray, including 3-3 in 2012. The Serb also beat Murray in a semifinal at the Australian Open and the final at the Miami Masters, while the Scot triumphed in the Dubai semifinals and Olympic semis before also winning at the U.S. Open.
Djokovic's five wins this year tie him with David Ferrer for second-most on the ATP World Tour, trailing only the six titles won by Roger Federer. Murray beat the Swiss superstar in the semifinals on Saturday.
Sunday's title was the 13th Masters 1000 crown for Djokovic, who claimed a first prize of $669,450.