Andy Murray failed in his bid to make it a hat-trick of titles at the Shanghai Masters after losing a three-set thriller to Novak Djokovic.
In their first meeting since Murray’s win in the US Open final, Djokovic triumphed 5-7 7-6 (13-11) 6-3.
Murray edged the first set, which had seven breaks of serve, with Djokovic reacting angrily by smashing a racket.
Djokovic saved five match points in the second set before levelling the match and then did enough for victory.
In a top-class match, Murray showed plenty of the form he displayed inbeating world number one Roger Federer in Saturday’s semi-finals but Djokovic, who had lost his last two matches against the Scot at Flushing Meadows and in the Olympic semi-final at Wimbledon, threw everything at him.
The second set was packed with drama with Murray breaking to lead 4-3 and he served for the match at 5-4 but Djokovic saved his first match point to level it and he then saved four more in the tie-break, which lasted more than 20 minutes, sealing the set with a volley that led to fist-pumping celebrations.
With the momentum in his favour, Djokovic broke to go 4-3 up in the decider and broke Murray again in the ninth game when the Scot went long with a backhand.
It ended the Scot’s winning run in Shanghai and gave Djokovic his fifth title of the year.
“It was a thrilling match…very long – three-and-a-half hours for best of three is quite long. But I have got used to it,” Djokovic said.
“Whenever I play Andy I know it’s going to be a gruelling fight, a lot of long rallies. It could have gone either way.
“I could not say I dominated the match because all three sets were very close and he had some match points and opportunities to finish the match. I could have easily been a runner-up today but I’m very proud of my fight.”
Murray said he was disappointed by the loss but paid tribute to Djokovic.
“I’ve lost tougher matches than that before and I’m sure I will recover,” said the world number three. “But it was a top-quality match. Both of us played some unbelievable tennis at times.
“It was literally the difference of one, two centimetres in winning the match and losing it. You have to put things into perspective. It was obviously a bit frustrating but it was so close and could have been a different outcome.
“The third set he played better than me. When I had my chances he served very well and hit the lines when he needed to. Most of our games have been tight, close matches but I feel like my game is there.”