Andy Murray claimed his first win at this year’s ATP World Tour Finals this evening. The World Number 6 defeated Canadian Milos Raonic 6-3, 7-5 to keep his hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals alive.
Following a dismal opening group match performance against Kei Nishikori, in which he looked tired and listless; Murray found himself on the brink of elimination. Defeat tonight would have sent him crashing out of the tournament.
Eager to make up for Sunday’s debacle, Murray came out of the blocks quickly. From the moment he punctuated winning the first game with a steely fist pump, it became apparent the real Andy Murray had arrived in London. Not the tired, energy sapped, mopey Murray but the other one, the athletic and intense baseliner who won 20 of 23 matches en route to qualifying for the tournament. He tortured Raonic with his consistent, crafty point construction, coaxing the Canadian into a number of forehand errors in the opening set. In addition to his erratic play from the baseline Raonic struggled to find his first serve. His delivery, perhaps the most patented weapon in tennis (when he gets it in court that is) went AWOL. He only managed to put a meagre 37% of his first serve into play in set one. Murray’s sharpness paid dividends and in the 6th game of the set Raonic sent a forehand long to gift the Scot a break of serve. Murray then went on to close out the opener: 6-3 in 37 minutes.
In his defeat to Federer on Sunday Raonic bounced back from a poor opening set, pushing the World Number 2 harder in the second before losing 7-0 in a tie-break. He would do the exact same against Murray, tightening up his game and reducing his unforced error count. 2-0 down he rallied to break Murray’s serve and level the score. From then on the second was a tight affair. Raonic jumped out to 30-0 leads in two Murray service games but failed to capitalise on both occasions. At the tail end of the second set Murray’s edge in big match experience proved to be the difference between the pair,he played with more conviction and urgency when it mattered most. At 5-5 the 5th seed cranked up the pressure. In a vintage Murray move he scrambled wide to retrieve a seemingly unreachable Raonic approach shot; a burst of speed that left the Canadian so shocked he dumped a routine volley in the net to lose the point and his serve. Murray then duly went on to close out the match in the next game, avoiding a premature exit from a tournament he missed last year through injury.
Murray’s win this evening means he heads into his final group match against Roger Federer with a spot in the semi-finals up for grabs. The round robin format employed at the end of year championships nearly always needs some calculator wielding mathematicians on standby. Provided Kei Nishikori beats Raonic in the other group A encounter on Thursday the loser of the Murray –Federer duel could up failing to reach the semi-finals depending on the number of games and sets won or lost. It could all get very sticky.Following the match Murray spoke about his impending clash with the Swiss Number 1 stating: “I’m looking forward to playing Roger, he’s one of the greatest players that ever played, so to get the opportunity to play against him is excellent”. Murray was much improved today, but not spectacular. Beating an in form Federer still chasing the year end Number 1 ranking will take more than improvement; it will take Murray’s very best.