There was, to be fair, more than the normal amount of pressure on Murray in this match. It wasn’t just that he was playing a Masters 1000 final against an opponent who had beaten Novak Djokovic the previous day. This time, for one of the first times in his decade-long career, Murray was also playing for the No. 1 ranking. With Djokovic’s defeat in the semifinals, Murray had a chance to narrow the gap, significantly, between himself and the Serb in the race for the year-end top spot.
Half a dozen times, Murray started his service motion, only to stop, stare toward into the crowd and start over again. Who did he see there? He spent an entire game muttering to himself, to his box, to his racquet and to the chair umpire about a Bautista Agut challenge that he thought had come too late. And with a chance to close out the first set on his serve at 5-4, Murray seemed to talk himself into being broken.
Was this going to be a repeat of his quarterfinal against Kei Nishikori at the U.S. Open? That was also a match with implications for the race to No. 1. It was also a match that, midway through, was Murray’s to lose. And it was a match that Murray, after letting himself be distracted by a loud noise that rung out in the middle of a point, ended up losing.
Fortunately for Murray, Bautista Agut is not Nishikori. In the first-set tiebreaker, the Spaniard let Murray off the hook and allowed him to refocus by making three straight unforced errors to go down 1-5, When Murray finished the breaker with a vicious backhand return winner he was back in command, and he stayed in that position through the second set. His 7-6 (1), 6-1 win gave him his 41st career title—tying him with Stefan Edberg for 15th on the all-time ATP list—his 13th Masters title and his third on the fast courts in Shanghai. Most important, he drew within 915 points of Djokovic in the race. If Murray wins in Vienna and Paris, he can pull ahead of him.