One of the hottest players this fall, Andy Murray, fell completely flat in his ATP Finals opener today in London. Murray, who had won three titles since the US Open, was never in his opening round robin match with Kei Nishikori losing lifelessly to the Japanese No. 1 6-4, 6-4.
“It’s obviously disappointing to lose the first match,” said Murray. “I would have liked to have done better. I didn’t serve well enough today. I would say that was the biggest difference in the match. He was able to dictate a lot of points, especially behind my second serve. That was statistically the part of the match, I mean, that was the part of the match where he had the upper hand. That was the difference.
“Both of us struggled at the beginning of the match… there were a lot of mistakes. Then, he definitely started playing better at the end of the first set and started feeling a bit more comfortable with those conditions.”
Considering how well Murray had been playing, his intent on qualifying for the event and the fact the tournament is in his home country, I, and probably everyone watching, expected a better performance from the Scot. But it seemed in the end like he didn’t know it began on a Sunday!
What was so striking was that Nishikori didn’t play much better, serving eight double faults coupled with a poor first serve percentage. But he did just enough to come away with a big win in his Finals debut.
“I was a little bit tight in the beginning, but I started feeling a little more confident in especially second set,” said Nishikori. “I was very, very solid… I was a little bit surprised at how I played on the court: very confident. I’m looking forward to play the next match.”
The victory sets up Nishikori nicely for the week. A Thursday win over Raonic could get him in.
As for Murray, who’s never made the final in London, the straight set loss really damages his chances of getting through Group B. Luckily the format does allow him to get back in, but he’ll now have to beat Milos Raonic on Tuesday then likely Roger Federer on Thursday.
“It’s harder to qualify when you lose your first match,” Murray said. “That’s pretty obvious. But unlike the other events, you still have a chance to go through. If this were anywhere else, I would be out of the tournament. You need to try to forget about today, work on some things tomorrow, and hopefully play better on Tuesday.
“Now I need to win my next two matches more than likely and win them well if I want to go through. That’s going to be tricky because Milos obviously played fantastic last week in Paris, and Roger always plays well at this event. So I’m definitely going to have to play better if I want to get through.”
In the late match, Federer had his revenge over Raonic. Ten days ago it was Milos stunning the Swiss in Paris, this time Roger got off to a quick start then finishing strong blanking the Canadian in the breaker to win 6-1, 7-6(0).
“I think I played really well for probably one and a half sets,” said Federer. “It was good to get off to a good start like I did against him at Cincinnati and Wimbledon. I broke in the first game and sort of never looked back.
“Thankfully he didn’t play quite so well like he did in Paris. He gave me a few shots here and there, especially at the beginning of the breaker. I think those were crucial. I was happy to bring it home because it was very close at the end of the second.”
Roger looked really sharp early on against Raonic who may have been a little overwhelmed in his debut. The second was much, much tighter as Milos failed to convert on several break chances and a set point late in the second.
“Obviously it can come down just to one play, and we might be playing a third set,” said Raonic. “But it’s obviously disappointing, very disappointing actually, the way I finished that second set off…Today the big difference was when he would get his racquet on the ball, he would make me play all the time. He was giving me some shots in Paris in that sense, some quicker points.
“I get pretty angry when I lose, so I’m going to have to learn how to slap myself out of it.”
And I should add that Federer helped Murray by straight-setting Raonic. So technically Raonic (7 games) is last in the group behind’s Murray 8 games won.
On tap tomorrow, defending champion Novak Djokovic opens his bid for a three-peat against Marin Cilic. In the early match it’s Tomas Berdych and Stan Wawrinka. I like Djokovic and I’ll take Berdych stop the rot he’s had against Stan.
MONDAY ATP FINALS SCHEDULE
DOUBLES A / 12:00 PM
A PEYA/ B SOARES VS J ROJER/ H TECAU
SINGLES A / 02:00 PM
WAWRINKA VS BERDYCH
DOUBLES A / 06:00 PM
B BRYAN/ M BRYAN VS L KUBOT/R LINDSTEDT
SINGLES A / 08:00 PM
DJOKOVIC VS CILIC
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