Andy Murray survived troubling weather conditions, ambiguous umpiring and a partisan crowd to beat Roger Federer 6-4, 6-4 and move into the Shanghai final today.
It was a strange match, in which the scoreline — particularly the first set — didn’t reflect the extent to which Murray seemed to be dominant, while at one and the same time, not playing particularly well. The defending champion’s forehand flickered in and out and he served at a low 53%, but was altogether more mentally solid and resilient than the world No. 1. Federer, meanwhile, struggled to be consistent in any area of his game right from the beginning of the match. After making only 1 of 5 first serves and being consequently broken to 15 in his first service game, Federer immediately broke back but squandered any sense of getting his feet under him with an astonishing three consecutive double faults to be broken again at 2-2. Part of that must, of course, be credited to the pressure of Murray’s returning – he finished the match with seven clean return winners – but the size of some of Federer’s misses showed that he was clearly rattled. As the set wore on, Federer started to give up more errors on his ground strokes as well, consistently slow to move to his backhand side which Murray exploited reasonably well, serving the set out to love, 6-4 in 41 minutes.
As the second set opened, Federer’s first service game took on an epic and decisive feel. First Murray earned and failed to convert six break points, then scattered drops of rain prompted a halt in play as Federer, understandably, cited his desire not to “take chances” with the court surface. Despite umpire Ali Nilli repeatedly decreeing the surface fit to play, he signally failed to take charge of the situation, leading to an extended and confusing few minutes for all concerned until it was decided to close the roof and play on. Murray saw another break point come and go before Federer eventually held, and when he failed to capitalize on a 0-30 lead with Federer serving at 1-1, his frustrated muttering to himself increased in volume and frequency and one began to get the sense that Federer might yet pull off a startling resurgence from his first set form.
It was the U.S. Open champion, however, who managed to revive his own chances. With Federer serving at 2-2, 40-0, Murray put in two strong returns and one of his trademark forehand cross-court passes for deuce. Federer made an error and Murray needed only one break point this time, slapping a forehand return winner right on to the line to lead 3-2.
Even another rain delay, this one lasting half an hour while the roof was closed, before Murray served for the match couldn’t deter the defending champion, who returned, warmed up and served it out to 15. The match ended with a tame backhand slice return into the net from Federer on Murray’s second serve, just one of the areas the world No. 1 failed to exert any pressure.