Andy Murray kept pace with Novak Djokovic in the race for No. 1 with a marathon win over Kei Nishikori 6-7(9), 6-4, 6-4 in round robin play at the ATP Finals in London. The 3-hour, 21-minute affair marked the longest best-of-3 set match ever recorded (since 1991) at the ATP Finals.
“I’m a bit tired, obviously,” said Murray. “But you tend to feel it more the following day, sort of in terms like stiffness and soreness in the body. I was in the ice bath after the match. That obviously helps kind of make you feel a bit better. But sort of 10, 12 hours afterwards the body starts to stiffen up. I’m sure tomorrow I’ll be a bit sore. But it’s positive I get a day’s rest, a day’s recovery tomorrow.
The win was Murray’s 21st straight and put him back in the lead for No. 1, ahead of Novak Djokovic who plays Thursday.
”It’s obviously important to win matches to give yourself the best chance to go through. 200 points for each match here is quite a lot, as well. Obviously that increases as you get into the semis, potentially in the final. It could come down to a match between me and Novak. Who knows what’s going to happen [over] the next few days. Just from my side, [I need to] concentrate on trying to win my own matches, get through as many as I can, make it as tough as possible for Novak to jump me.”
After grinding out a tough first set which he sealed on his fifth set point, Nishikori was promptly broken to start the second, and then was down two breaks in the third despite dictating many of the rallies.
“It never feels good after losing the match,” said Nishikori. “I know it was close. I mean, I’m definitely disappointed… I think it was great match, both of us. I played really consistently [and] played with good energy. I’m sure he’s going to qualify from the group. I will try to aim for the second spot.”
In the second match, Stan Wawrinka won a battle of US Open champions beating Marin Cilic 7-6(3), 7-6(3) to stay alive in the hunt for the weekend.
“It was a great match,” said Wawrinka. “I’m really happy with the way I played in general. It was a tough match, for sure – two tie-breaks. I think the level was really high… I think I was moving great. It was a great victory for me.”
On Friday, Cilic takes on Nishikori while Wawrinka battles Murray.
“All I know is if I want to have a chance to qualify, I need to win,” said Wawrinka. “That’s all I’m trying to do. I’m going to try to play my best tennis, to beat the World No. 1. It’s going to be a tough match. We played many times against each other. He’s playing his best tennis so far. It’s going to be interesting. I’m happy to play here in front of his home crowd. I’m sure it’s going to be a great atmosphere.”
Cilic has been eliminated from the event leaving Murray, Wawrinka and Nishikori all bidding for the semifinals with both spots still undecided. As long as Murray wins a set against the Swiss, he’s in the semifinals. If he doesn’t then things get interesting when Nishikori and Cilic take the court in the evening.
On Thursday in the Ivan Lendl group, Djokovic returns to take on David Goffin who replaced the injured Gael Monfils who withdrew with a rib muscle injury. While the outcome has no impact on the tournament, it’s important for Djokovic to collect more points heading into the weekend.
Later, Milos Raonic and Dominic Thiem meet in a rematch of their Cincinnati quarterfinal won by the Canadian. This time, the winner moves into the semifinals.
“He’s playing well,” Raonic said of the Austrian. “He’s been doing stuff well throughout this whole year. Obviously, just like myself, he played extremely well at the beginning of the year. Hasn’t necessarily played his best tennis since.
“Fortunately for me I hope it works out that way. This is one of my best surfaces. I don’t know if indoor hard courts is necessarily his. So hopefully I can take time away from him and play on my terms and have him react to the things I put forward and try to push him around.”
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