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Murray moves up to No.3

by Alexandra Willis
Monday 17 October 2011

The Scot leap-frogged Roger Federer in the rankings after completing a treble of titles in back-to-back weeks in Asia, beginning first in Bangkok, scene of his very first ATP final in 2006, then to Tokyo, and finally to Shanghai, where the British No.1 arrived as defending champion.

Admittedly, all three tournaments were without the full complement of the 'big four' - Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer both absent through injury, and Rafael Nadal in Tokyo and Shanghai, but not quite there at the same time.

Still, it was an opportunity that knocked for Murray, who seemed to be travelling on confidence and good humour as he put together a match-winning streak of 15 matches, bringing his summer season tally to 25 wins in 26 matches, the one loss coming against Nadal in the US Open semi-finals.

Bangkok was more of a stroll than a shock back on to the courts after the gruelling exploits of Flushing Meadows, giving Murray a platform to work his way up from solid to unstoppable. Just ask Donald Young, who was obliterated 6-2, 6-0 in 48 minutes in the Bangkok final.

Next, was Tokyo, where Murray stuttered against Marcos Baghdatis in the first round, only to pull through in three sets. Winning breeds winning. Just ask Novak Djokovic. Reaching perhaps the peak of his performance in a lop-sided final against Nadal, winning 3-6, 6-2, 6-0, Murray claimed title No.2.

Given an easy start in Shanghai courtesy of a bye and the subsequent withdrawal of Dmitry Tursunov, Murray again had to make the hard work pay off over three sets against Stanislas Wawrinka, before sweeping his way into his 30th career final, this time against the waspish qualities of David Ferrer. The Spaniard hustled and tussled, but could do little to prevent Murray taking the title 7-5, 6-4.

Murray's reward is a place inside the top three for the first time since February 2010, bumping Federer down to No.4 as a result, the first time the 16-time Grand Slam champion has been ranked outside the top three since June 2003.

Pundits will point to Murray never truly running with the rest of the big four until he has a Grand Slam title to his name, and his opponents in the last three weeks have not been of the highest order. But a streak such as the one he has achieved can only do good things for the Briton's confidence in his ability to blend patience with aggression, that confidence that has seemed to desert him at crucial junctures in the past.

Meanwhile on the WTA, the eighth and final spot for the season-ending WTA Championships in Istanbul will be decided this week as Agnieszka Radwanska and Marion Bartoli battle it out for the last space. The weekend also heralded a first title for Petra Kvitova since her triumph here at Wimbledon in June. 

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