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Finals 2008

Andy Murray© Getty ImagesAndy Murray's last season run included the title in Madrid.

DRAMATIC RACE TO SHANGHAI REACHES CONCLUSION

After weeks of innumerable changes in the ATP 2008 Race, when calculator batteries died as quickly as the hopes of Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai contenders faded with early tournament exits, the dramatic race finally reached its conclusion in the very last match of the regular season.

With seven players already packing their suitcases and finalizing visa applications, the final berth was to be clinched in a fascinating winner-takes-all championship clash between Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and defending champion David Nalbandian of Argentina at the BNP Paribas Masters. Just as countryman Sebastien Grosjean had done seven years earlier, Tsonga thrived on the support of a raucous home crowd to claim a dramatic 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 victory and clinch the final place in the eight-man field.

Five of the elite eight featured in Shanghai are aged 23 or younger, guaranteeing an enticing clash of youthful exuberance and experience in the season's final showdown.

UNSTOPPABLE MURRAY MAKES HIS MARK

The 'Big Three' became the 'Big Four' as 21-year-old Murray lit up the final quarter of the season with near-unstoppable tennis. The Scot capped a tremendous summer with a run to his first Grand Slam final at the US Open, where he recorded his first win in six career meetings over Rafael Nadal in the semifinals before ultimately bowing down to the excellence of Federer in the championship match.

His Tennis Masters Cup spot assured, Murray kicked on, winning 14 straight matches to capture back-to-back titles at Masters Series Madrid and St. Petersburg before falling to Nalbandian in the Paris quarterfinals.

To earn victory in Madrid, Murray toppled Federer 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 in the semifinals before edging past the in-form Simon in the final. Murray's triumph saw him become the first player to win the Cincinnati and Madrid ATP Masters Series events consecutively (since 2002), and the first Briton to own two Masters Series shields. The following week in St. Petersburg, he successfully defended his crown with victory over Andrey Golubev in the final to claim his fifth title of the season and, in doing so, joined the elite company of Nadal (eight) as the only two players to have collected five or more titles in 2008.

RAFA TO FINISH ON TOP OF THE WORLD, RECEIVES ROYAL HONOUR

For the first time since 2004, the South African Airways ATP Rankings will boast a new year-end No. 1, as Nadal is guaranteed to finish as the World No. 1 for the first time. He is the first Spaniard to do so and ends Federer's four-year reign at the top of the year-end Rankings.

The 22-year-old Spaniard will finish as the 15th different year-end No. 1 after taking over the mantle from his fierce rival Federer on August 18, ending the Swiss superstar's 237-week reign. The Mallorcan is the first left-hander to finish No. 1 since John McEnroe in 1984 and the third left-hander to do so in the 36-year history of the ATP Rankings.

In recognition of his success, the 2008 Prince of Asturias Awards for Sports was bestowed upon Nadal – presented by Don Felipe de Borbon. Nadal was selected for the award – beating Olympic heroes Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and Yelena Isinbayeva – not only in recognition of his outstanding success on the tennis court, but also for his great sportsmanship and humility both in victory and defeat.

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DEUCE, DEUCE Finals 2008

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