Andy Murray moved to within striking distance of the world number one ranking as he broke open a tight final at the Shanghai Masters with a runaway tiebreak to beat Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6 (7-1), 6-1 on Sunday.
Victory in 96 minutes draws the Scot closer to Novak Djokovic, whose grip on the ATP top spot is starting to slip in the face of a charge from his hot rival which has lasted for most of the season.
Murray stands a manageable 915 points adrift, and is set to play in a week in Vienna while Djokovic will be idle. The Serb is not due compete again until the Paris Bercy event in early November, which he has won the last three years.
Djokovic was bundled out in the Saturday semi-finals by Spain's 15th seed Bautista Agut, who had no answer in the final once the mighty Murray machine hit top gear.
"“I will try and finish this year as strong as I can,” Murray said. “And next year if the opportunity is there to reach number one, then I want to try and take it. “I did feel like I played better this week than last week. In all of the matches I was hitting the ball pretty clean.
"Obviously I think I played four top 20 players or top 25 players this week. And played some really good tennis against all of them.”
Murray finished off a title sweep in China, adding a third Shanghai trophy to his Beijing honors from a week ago, an event which a demotivated and stressed-out Djokovic opted to skip after winning it six times.
Murray's victory was his 10th match win in succession on the way to his 41st career title.
The 29-year-old was playing his 10th final of 2016 and now owns six trophies from the year; he last won that many in 2009.
Shanghai was his 20th career Masters 1000 final: he has won 13 trophies in the elite series and stands 41-21 in career finals.
Murray needed 65 minutes to secure the first set as he failed to serve it out leading 5-3 as his Spanish opponent saved three set points.
The Scot got his chances in the tiebreaker, losing the first point before going on his tear to secure the opener on a backhand service return cross-court.
A break to start the second was all that was needed for Murray to take full control and run out the winner.
Murray won the title without the loss of a set and joins Djokovic as the only three-time champion at the tournament.
Bautista Agut, who stand 13th in the race to the eight-man season final in London, was thrilled with his performance in the biggest match of his career: "I gave everything on the court. It wasn't easy to handle all of the emotions today.
"Andy's doing everything to get Novak, he's really focused on getting (to) number one."
Murray's 41 career titles puts him level with Stefan Edberg, while his 617 career match wins pulls him ahead of Lleyton Hewitt to 20th on the all-time list.
Sunday, November 6, 2016 - 19:32
Thursday, May 5, 2016 - 18:30
Saturday, April 2, 2016 - 00:17