(Reuters) – Andy Murray outgunned Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov 6-4 7-6(2) in the final of the China Open on Sunday to claim his 40th career title and continue his pursuit of the world number one spot.
Murray closed out the match in an hour and 57 minutes to become the 16th player to win 40 ATP titles.
The Briton is now 1,555 points behind Djokovic in the race to end the year as number one and has plenty of points to play for in Shanghai, Paris and the London Tour finals.
Djokovic did not defend his title in Beijing because of an elbow injury but is expected to play in Shanghai.
It was Murray’s fifth title of what is turning out to be his best year, having reached the Australian Open final, French Open final, winning Wimbledon and the Olympics.
“It’s been the most consistent year of my career, getting to the latter stages of most of the events I have played,” Murray told Sky Sports after dispatching Dimitrov.
“Today’s match was a very high-level match. Grigor fought right to the end and made it extremely tough to finish it in two sets. I’m very happy with the way that I have played the last couple of matches. I will look forward to Shanghai now.”
Murray took the first set and looked set to serve out the second when leading 5-4 before Dimitrov forced a tiebreak.
The 29-year-old, who did not drop a set in Beijing, earned an immediate mini-break and never looked back.
“Andy’s pretty much the greatest player this year. He’s been winning a lot and has a lot of confidence. He obviously knows how to move well on the court. All the credit to him,” Dimitrov, who has lost three finals this year, said.
Murray will be seeking his third Shanghai title next week where he has a first-round bye. His first match will be against either American Steve Johnson or Slovakian Martin Klizan.
Defending champion Djokovic faces a second-round clash with Italy’s Fabio Fognini.
(Reporting by Ian Rodricks in Bengaluru and Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)