After falling at the semi-final stage at Wimbledon and suffering a surprise opening-match defeat to Kevin Anderson at the Rogers Cup, Andy Murray had work to do if he was to arrive at the 2011 US Open with the belief required to claim his first Grand Slam title.
A positive outing at the Cincinnati Masters was imperative, and after being seeded fourth at the tournament and in the other half of the draw to in-form Novak Djokovic, who had lost just one match all year, his hopes of claiming his second crown at the event had been raised. However, the British number one first needed to overcome a number of testing clashes before he could contemplate another win in Ohio.
David Nalbandian was dispatched in the second round for the loss of just five games before Alex Bogomolov Jr was defeated in comfortable fashion. Gilles Simon was no match for the 24-year-old in the last eight before Murray neutralised the big serve of Mardy Fish to earn himself a place in the final, which took place on this day four years ago.
As expected, Djokovic was his foe in the final. The Serbian, whose only loss all season had come at the hands of Roger Federer in the French Open final, dropped just the one set on his way to another meeting with Murray, the 10th of their growing rivalry, but Murray could look back on his success over Djokovic in the 2008 showpiece if he needed any extra inspiration ahead of what was undoubtedly a tough ask against an opponent who had won 33 matches in a row on hard courts since the start of the year.
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Ahead of the match, Djokovic had revealed that he had been trying to deal with an ongoing shoulder problem, and right from the off, it appeared as though it may hinder his performance. Murray immediately brought up two break points, taking the first after a Djokovic mistake, before the Serbian barely got his first game on the board after seeing off another chance for Murray. However, in the sixth game, parity was restored after Murray blazed a shot into the tramlines when facing a second break point of the game.
Murray was visibly rattled but he provided an instant reply, taking advantage of another opening by drilling a cross-court backhand over the other side of the net that Djokovic couldn't handle. The searing heat in Ohio was beginning to play its part, but Murray was handling it the better of the two and despite seeing two set points come and go, he got over the line when Djokovic dumped a forehand into the net.
Before the start of the second, Djokovic had treatment on his troublesome shoulder but it did little good as Murray secured another break after a sloppy game from the world number one. The writing appeared to be on the wall and after succumbing on his serve for a fourth time in seven service games, Djokovic decided that enough was enough and brought an abrupt halt to proceedings to hand Murray the seventh Masters title of his career.
After lifting the trophy, Murray said: "Obviously when he started to slow down his serve toward the end of the first set, it was going to be tough for him. Sometimes things can warm up when you play, sometimes they get worse. I just tried to stay focused."
The Scot has since gone on to win four more Masters Series crowns, the most recent coming last week as he defeated Djokovic over three sets at the Rogers Cup in Montreal.