Fabio Fognini knuckled down on Tuesday and kept alive his hopes of qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals with a hard-fought victory over former World No. 1 Andy Murray, a three-time former champion at the Rolex Shanghai Masters.
Murray twice served for the match at 5-4 and 6-5 in the deciding set, but Fognini dug deep to record a 7-6(4), 2-6, 7-6(2) victory over three hours and nine minutes for a place in the third round.
Fognini, who is currently 13th in the 2019 ATP Race To London, remains 110 points behind Alexander Zverev, who sits in the eighth and final qualification spot for the season finale, to be held at The O2 in London from 10-17 November. Fognini will next play seventh-seeded Russian Karen Khachanov or Taylor Fritz of the United States in the third round on Thursday.
Murray, who was riding a six-match winning streak at the Qi Zhong Stadium, dating back to his 2016 title run (d. Bautista Agut), was attempting to record the biggest win of his comeback from right hip surgery in January. At World No. 289, the Briton was also bidding to become the lowest-ranked player to reach the round of 16 at an ATP Masters 1000 tournament since No. 467-ranked American Taylor Dent in March 2009 at the Miami Open presented by Itau.
Although Murray’s serve was broken in the third game of the first set, the 32-year-old Briton worked his way back to a 4-2 advantage before 10th seed Fognini staged a comeback.
Fognini saved two break points in a 22-point opening game to the second set, but Murray grew in confidence and from 1-2 down he won the next five games.
Fognini momentarily wobbled at 3-3 in the decider, when, having led on serve at 40/0, Murray won four straight points for a break-point opportunity – only to see Fognini strike a forehand winner.
Murray first served for the match at 5-4 in the deciding set after Fognini was deemed not to have picked up a drop shot, but the Italian immediately bounced back after a Murray forehand error.
Then, in a tense finale, Murray set himself on a path to a seventh straight victory in Shanghai with a forehand crosscourt winner to break for a 6-5 advantage. The Scot served for a second time to close out his sixth victory over an injury-protracted season, which saw him miss five months, but Fognini’s groundstroke consistency and net play helped him to the tie-break.
Murray underwent his second right hip surgery on 28 January. Last week, he advanced at the China Open to his first ATP Tour quarter-final for 12 months (2018 Shenzhen).