Mason, Ohio:Forced to play another tiebreaker after wasting four match points, Andy Murray pulled off the best shot of the game - an in-the-corner backhand - that set up a 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) win over Novak Djokovic for the Cincinnati Masters title.
The 21-year-old from Scotland crouched in exultation when he finished it off, then swatted a ball into the stands and hunched over, trying to catch his breath before accepting the crystal trophy shaped like a shield.
"It's huge to win your first sort of major tournament, and to do it in a match like today makes it more special," Murray said. "I put in a lot of work off the court to be able to win these sorts of tournaments, and it makes it all worthwhile."
His breakthrough victory ended a US$2.6 million ATP Western & Southern Financial Group Masters that will be remembered more for what it did to the world rankings.
Rafael Nadal lost to Djokovic in the semifinals, but piled up enough rankings points during the week to finally wrest the No. 1 spot from Roger Federer in two weeks. Federer has led the rankings since Feb. 2, 2004, with Nadal right behind him for the last three years.
While the quest for No. 1 overshadowed the week, the world's third-ranked player had a week that's about as good as it gets - until he met Murray for the second time in two weeks.
Last week, Murray changed tactics and beat Djokovic in the quarterfinals at Toronto, his first career win in five matches against the 21-year-old Serb. Djokovic hadn't lost a set all week in Cincinnati, making for an interesting rematch.
Murray made fewer errors and put himself in position to close it out in the second set. Up 5-3, he got four match points and failed to convert any of them, allowing an apparently down-and-out Djokovic to get back into it. Djokovic had twisted his left ankle while planting for a shot, was moving tentatively and looked vulnerable at that point.
"He was making me (have) a lot of unforced errors," Djokovic said. "He was playing a lot of slice and changing pace to my forehand. I just lost the rhythm."
Given the reprieve, Djokovic got back on his game. The turning point came when they were even in the tiebreaker.
They went back-and-forth on one point, running each other around the court until Murray put a crosscourt backhand in the corner. Both players pulled up and bent over in near-exhaustion, and Djokovic patted his racket in appreciation of what had just happened.
"That point was insane," Murray said. "We had like a 30-shot rally, and I was dictating most the point. But in those conditions, when you played so many long points and you're really going for the shot, your legs get really fatigued."
Ahead 5-4, Murray finished it off.
It was a highlight of the best summer of Murray's career. He also reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon. When the next rankings come out on Monday, Britain's best player will move up to No. 6, the best of his career.
"I've started to play more consistently in the bigger tournaments," Murray said. "Obviously winning your first one makes a big difference in your confidence. I've never been past the quarters of a Slam before, so there's still a long way to go."
It was something of a surprise for Murray, who has an abnormal right kneecap that causes pain and swelling. It was so worrisome that he had a medical scan at the start of the week.
Reassured that there was no significant injury, Murray got stronger as the week went on. He was steady at returning serves _ he had broken his opponents 17 times in 40 games heading into the final. He also used a lot of ice, packing his troublesome right knee after each match to keep the inflammation down.
In the end, he was the last one standing.