The Oft-Written Rule

Shanghai Masters, Final

(2) Murray d. (3) Ferrer 7/5 6/4

Andy Murray defeated David Ferrer in straight sets tonight, and thereby won the Shanghai Masters 1000 for the second year running. It is the Scot’s eighth Masters title, which is presumably the most anyone has ever won without also winning a major. Eight puts him one clear of Michael Chang (apparently), and equal with Thomas Muster (again, apparently). This was pointed out by Jason Goodall after the match concluded, and I haven’t checked whether it is correct. I do know, without checking, that both Chang and Muster have one Slam each (both at Roland Garros), and that this is one more than Murray has. I know this because everyone does, even those with the happy fortune not to be British. For those few who don’t know, Robbie Koenig helpfully prodded the discussion that way immediately, wondering for only the 200th time why Murray cannot reproduce his Masters prowess in the Slams. He is 8-1 in Masters finals, and 0-3 in major finals. This is not news. Meanwhile, over at tennis.com they are running this urgent poll: “Does Andy Murray’s play in Asia change your opinion of him as a Grand Slam title threat?” I only mention all of this since there is (apparently) a kind of rule that one has to. I could say it is an unwritten rule, but unwritten is the last thing it is.

The Shanghai title completes a clean sweep of the Asian Swing for Murray, which is unprecedented in men’s tennis, and only diminished slightly when we remember that it only lasts for three weeks, and that it has existed in its current format for only a few years. It also means that he has defended a hardcourt title every year since 2007, when he won San Jose for the second time. Granted, this is an obscure statistic, but it’s impressive nonetheless, and only enhanced when we recall that Nadal has never defended a hardcourt title at all. Say what you like about surface homogenisation, but the court still matters.

Tokyo remains the standout, most notably for the comprehensive drubbing of Rafael Nadal in the final, and the only slightly less complete mauling of Ferrer a round earlier. Indeed, the contract between today’s victory and last week’s against Ferrer is revealing. Murray clearly needs a rest. Tonight the going was tight until 5/5 in the first, with Murray scolding his box after every other point, when Ferrer succinctly demonstrated with flawless economy why he has yet to claim a Masters title. From 30-0 up, and having played a scorching point to get there, he produced three perfectly incongruous backhand errors, topped by a double fault. The end was still some way off, but it had suddenly lurched into view. Murray, grateful, was too shocked even to abuse his guests, at least momentarily. Indeed, the Spaniard’s backhand wing was little short of a liability tonight, which must have dismayed him greatly, since he is generally technically impregnable, with a great set of wheels. That said, Murray clearly knew something coming into the match, and he pressed and kneaded the backhand mercilessly. Errors duly leaked out. Breaks were briefly traded in the second, but the result looked quite foregone by this time, which is presumably what Murray was roaring at his box whenever Ferrer almost won a point.

Murray will now move to No.3 in the rankings, replacing Federer. It will likely stay that way until the end of the year.

Awkward commentary moment of the week arrived courtesy of Robbie Koenig, happily reunited with Jason Goodall. Apropos of an over-anxious let machine, Goodall remarked that,”It can be recalibrated. It does get a little sensitive.”

To which Koenig, forgetting that it is 2011, replied, “It’d be nice to make that sort of adjustment on my wife sometimes.”

A lead balloon has to be particularly weighty for Goodall to neither assist nor impede its progress, but he was wise in letting that one plummet of its own accord.

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