I’ll say Andy Murray needed that win more than Roger Federer, but in the end it was the Swiss fighting through when it counted the most. Credit to Federer who beat the Scot 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 in the round robin stage of the London ATP World Finals. The win also clinched the year-end No. 1 ranking for the Swiss.
“It means a lot to have returned to No. 1 and to finish the year again at No. 1,” said Federer. “It was an incredible year for me both on the court and off the court and to be able to break the all-time Grand Slam record and finish the year on top is amazing.”
After a scratchy start Murray seized the upper hand cruising to a first set 6-3 courtesy of a bundle of Federer miscues. But Federer promptly tightened his game turning those errors into winners and relocating his absent first serve. The defensive-minded Murray was left as spectator as Federer ran away with the match.
“These best of three set matches are tough, especially when the best players play each other,” said Federer who improves to 4 wins in 10 tries vs Murray with two straight wins. “Whoever has the momentum, he can swing freely. The other guy has to be careful. That’s why the beginning of sets are crucial. Of course, I had my doubts I was going to come through after having lost so many times in three sets against him. It feels good, but more than that, I think this is more the night to celebrate No. 1 than celebrate the victory over Andy really.”
For Federer the No. 1 ranking was at stake, and he got it done today, but it wasn’t do or die. Federer was all but a lock to secure it after No. 2 Rafael Nadal lost his opening match. Federer also has pocketed plenty of big titles and a win here would be satisfying conclusion to an outstanding year, but a loss won’t keep him up at night during the off season.
I don’t think the same can be said for Murray. The talented Murray has wins over Federer, Nadal, Novak Djokovic and seemingly everyone else who matters, but he just doesn’t have them on a big stage like the Grand Slams or at an event like this in his backyard. And that weight of expectations of him performing and winning on the biggest stages is only going to grow.
“I didn’t play well and I made mistakes,” said Murray who hit eight double faults. “It’s difficult against him, if you miss so many first serves then you put yourself under a lot of pressure. Maybe I made more mistakes than normal, but I just didn’t play well.”
This was a real statement match for Murray and he all but blew it. Fortunately in a round robin format Andy’s still in the title hunt, and a second encounter with Federer may loom Sunday.
In the earlier match Juan Martin Del Potro survived a veritable gagfest with Fernando Verdasco turning away the Spaniard 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(1). DelPo now gets a tasty showdown with Federer on Friday, while Verdasco will hang on to his slim hopes of qualifying against Murray.
Tomorrow, Nadal meets Nikolay Davydenko and Djokovic is dealt Robin Soderling. Davy matches up well with Rafa and we know the Spaniard isn’t in full flight. But I’m picking Nadal. And I think Djokovic wins a tough one with the Swede.
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