|Andy Murray of Britain returns the ball during his semi-final match against Kei Nishikori of Japan at the Shanghai Masters tennis tournament on Oct. 15, 2011. (REUTERS/Aly Song)
Andy Murray is in position to claim his second consecutive Shanghai Masters crown after a straight-set rout of Kei Nishikori in Saturday's semifinals.
The second-seeded Murray needed just 56 minutes to dispose of the first-time Masters semifinalist from Japan in a 6-3, 6-0 victory and will take on David Ferrer in Sunday's final. The third-seeded Spaniard won the opening semifinal, rallying for a 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-3 triumph over countrymate Feliciano Lopez.
Murray is gunning for his fifth title of 2011 and his third in a row. He won in Thailand two weeks ago and last week beat Rafael Nadal for the Tokyo crown. The Scottish native has won his last 13 matches, including a walkover to start this week's event, and hasn't lost since falling to Nadal in the U.S. Open semifinals last month.
A win Sunday would also make Murray the third-ranked player in the world behind Novak Djokovic and Nadal. He would move ahead of Roger Federer, who hasn't been lower than third since June of 2003 -- the month before the Swiss superstar won his first Wimbledon crown for the first of his 16 Grand Slam championships.
"It would be nice to finish the year off No. 3 if I can because that would be the highest ranking I finished at," said Murray. "It's not the ultimate goal, but it's a step in the right direction. I can't really finish as the No. 2 or 1. So it's just a goal I had for the end of the month."
Ferrer, who qualified for the season-ending ATP World Finals earlier this week, will try for his third title of the year and the 12th of his career. He won in Auckland and Acapulco earlier this season and lost title matches in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Bastad.
"I've never won a Masters 1000, and it's very important for me, for my tennis career," noted Ferrer.
Lopez had dominated his fellow Spaniard on hard courts entering Saturday's match with a 6-1 record against Ferrer on the surface. Ferrer, as he did in his previous two matches this week, dropped the first set and came roaring back. He broke serve in the third game of the second set and again in the ninth, then won the final three games of the third.
"When I lost the first set, I tried to forget the tiebreak and I tried to focus again," said Ferrer. "I played better in the second and the third. I served better. Finally in the third set, he did three double faults in the important moments and I took my chance."
Ferrer is trying for his first career Masters title. He finished as the runner-up to Nadal in the 2010 Rome final and also lost to the 10-time Grand Slam champ in this year's Monte Carlo title match.
Sunday will mark the third meeting of the year between Murray and Ferrer. Murray prevailed in each of the first two -- a four-set win in the Australian Open semifinals and a 6-2, 6-3 thumping last week in the Tokyo semis.
In seven lifetime matchups, Murray owns a 4-3 record against Ferrer. Not surprisingly, Murray has won all four meetings on hard courts and Ferrer is 3-0 on clay.
Murray is 21-9 all-time in finals, including 4-1 this year. In addition to his most recent titles, he also won at the Queen's Club and the Cincinnati Masters with his lone loss in a final coming at the Australian Open.
The 2011 Shanghai champion will earn $620,000.