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June 26 • 11:01
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Watch out Fed: Murray on a roll into Shanghai



October 10, 2011
It can't overshadow what Joker has already done this year, but people are beginning to talk about another streaker in 2011: Andy Murray. Since losing to Rafa in the semis of the Open, he's won 11 matches in a row, and before that loss to Rafa in NY, he'd won 10 in a row.

In the Shanghai ATP 1000 event starting tomorrow, #2 seed Murray has a chance to meet Rafa in a final again after beating him in the Tokyo final today, 6-3, 2-6, 6-0. By all accounts, including Rafa's, Murray was just too strong in the third:

"He played unbelievable, he didn't make any mistakes in the third set," said Nadal. "He played very aggressive and made no mistakes. When you are playing someone at that level, the only way is to try and get more free points on serve and for me it was impossible today because his return was very impressive."

In this case, the stats tell the story as well or better than Rafa's own admission: Rafa got 67% of his 1st serves in but was able to win only 43% of his own 1st serve points, and while he did much better on his 2nd serve (winning 71%), he barely ended up winning half of the points on his own service games. Murray won 73% of his service points.

Since his cascade of losses in the winter after the final of the Oz Open, Andy's won 4 tournaments and compiled a 45-8 won-loss record including Davis Cup, losing before semi-finals only to Bellucci and Anderson. He lost 4 semi-final matches to Rafa and has now split two finals with Rafa. His other loss: to Joker in the semi's of Rome (7-6 in the 3rd), a loss which is offset by his win over Joker in the final of Cincinnati. Not a single loss to Rafa or Joker has been straight sets since his embarrassing failure in the Australian final.

This is not the stuff of legend, but it is more impressive than what Federer's done during this period; were it not for Roger reaching the final in Paris, Murray would lead him in the rankings as he does in The Race. Were Murray to reach the final in Shanghai, the 600 points he'd gain would put him ahead of Roger in the rankings for the first time.

Murray's reaching the final is a very good bet given the way he's playing and his draw: in his quarter he has #8 seed Simon who hasn't beaten him once in over 4 years and 8 tries, along with two players in tail spins, Wawrinka and Troicki. In his half? Tsonga, who's also not beaten him in almost 4 years in 4 tries, and Fish. Mardy's 4-4 with Andy and beat him 3 times in 2010, but Andy won their only encounter in 2011 in the finals of Cincy. Mardy has a tough early draw, starting with Tomic or Anderson in his first match. Andy may well get to face Bellucci for only the 2nd time. Thomaz has only won 2 matches in a row once since Paris.

Should #1 seed Rafa be Andy's final opponent - and with Berdych the hottest opponent in his draw (Tomas won The China Open today over Cilic in 3), Rafa seems very likely to be (he's beaten the Czech 9 times in a row since 2006) - this match may be a be weather for both of the players this year. Losing two finals in a row to Murray would have to make Rafa fear another player had gotten into his head. And were Murray to continue as the hottest player on the tour through Paris indoor 1000 and the London finale, he could even take the #2 ranking from Rafa and reverse the order of the top 4 completely. As distant as this all seems today, it could seem much more proximate one week from today if Andy's holding another title cup.

That said, as Andy has pointed out, Roger is very good indoors where he will resume his season later this month. And Joker may have something more to accomplish in what is undeniably his year. The possibility of someone other than Rafa coming after Joker is, however, an exciting one. A Joker-Murray final in Australia in 2012 could be the match we all expected last January.

WOMEN's China Open; The Race

Agnieszka Radwanska is on a two title streak of her own in Asia, backing up her win in Tokyo last week over Zvonareva with a win in Beijing over her rival for the #8 spot in The Race, #9 Andrea Petkovic, 7-5, 0-6, 6-4. It was a high quality match, leaving both players on a competitive high.

The WTA tour now slows down for 2 weeks before their final 8 meet in Istanbul on the 25th, and they take the kind of 2 month break the men hunger to achieve.

Rick Devereux

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