Novak Djokovic avenged his US Open defeat to beat Andy Murray on Sunday, saving five match points to seal a stunning 5-7, 7-6 (13/11), 6-3 victory in the Shanghai Masters final.
The iron-willed Serbian second seed, 25, came out on top in a gripping second set tie-break lasting more than 20 minutes to level the match. He broke twice in the decider in a marathon match lasting three hours and 21 minutes.
A gruelling first set contained seven breaks of serve as the players went toe-to-toe in a breathtaking display of power hitting, with neither able to grab the initiative.
But third seed Murray, 25, made what proved to be the crucial breakthrough in the 11th game, recovering from 0-40 to break for a 6-5 lead as an infuriated Djokovic destroyed his racquet, tossing it away in disgust.
It was a different story in the second set, with both players secure on serve until defending champion Murray broke in the seventh game to lead 4-3 when Djokovic put a volley into the net.
But agonisingly for Murray, Djokovic, refusing to be beaten, saved a match point to pull level at 5-5 and the set went into the dramatic tie-break.
The Serbian denied the Scot four more times in the shoot-out, sealing the set with a drive volley that was followed by a trademark fist-pumping celebration.
Two breaks in the decider were enough for Djokovic to claim victory.
Murray beat his rival in five sets in last month’s US Open final to secure Britain’s first men’s Grand Slam singles title since the 1930s, just weeks after his Olympic triumph in front of home fans in London.
The Scot, who lost the Wimbledon final to Roger Federer, had never been beaten at the Shanghai Masters before Sunday, winning the 2010 and 2011 tournaments.
“Could have easily gone the other way. He was five match points up,” said Djokovic. “When I faced those match points, I tried to focus on each individually.
“We were very close,” he added. “It was a very even match throughout the whole three sets.”
The Serbian said the title would give him an injection of confidence as he closes in on the top spot in the rankings, which he said was his “biggest objective”.
“It’s something I’m aiming for. Obviously this is going to be a huge confidence boost and also is going to help me in the race for number one,” he added.
Djokovic came into the match on a 9-0 winning streak since losing to Murray, a run that included his third China Open title.
Djokovic enjoyed one of the finest seasons in tennis history in 2011, winning three Grand Slams. He is hot on the heels of Federer as he tries to secure the year-end number one ranking for the second year in a row.