Tokyo: Red-hot Andy Murray battled back from a set down against defending champion Rafael Nadal in thrilling fashion at the Japan Open on Sunday to claim his second consecutive title.
The British world number four, fresh from winning last week's Thailand Open, put an end to a five-match losing streak against Nadal with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-0 victory over the top seed in Tokyo.
Murray made a slow start in his 18th contest against world number two Nadal, dropping his opening service game to give the Spaniard an early advantage which he held onto to claim the first set.
But Murray, 24, found his serving range in the second set, raining down six aces and breaking his opponent twice before he stepped up another gear in the decider, allowing Nadal just four points as he swept to the title.
"I played some great tennis, especially in the third set. There were a lot of close games towards the end of the first set and the beginning of the second. I managed to get momentum and didn't give him many chances after that," said Murray.
"It had to be some of the best tennis I played in the third set. I've played some good matches against him in the past but it was just very consistent, didn't make too many mistakes and played well at important moments," he added.
"I played well the last few months in Cincinnati and US Open.... I am going to keep on trying to win, trying to improve and trying to get there (third in the world) at the end of the year."
Murray, who will be the second seed at the Shanghai Masters starting on Sunday behind Nadal, is targeting Roger Federer's number three ranking.
The Scot has won 21 of his past 22 matches, taking titles in Cincinnati, Bangkok and now in Tokyo. His only loss during that period came against Nadal in the US Open semi-finals.
Nadal, 25, admitted that Murray's serving was too good at crucial moments.
"His serve worked fantastic at important moments. He served very good in general today," said Nadal.
"He played unbelievable, he made no mistakes in the third set and played aggressive, a lot of winners."
Murray improved his record against Nadal to five wins against 13 defeats. It was his first victory over the Spaniard since August last year in Toronto.
It was Murray's fourth title of the season, following victories in London, Cincinnati and Bangkok.