BARCLAYS ATP WORLD TOUR FINALS 2012
Murray Finishes Second in Group A After Tsonga Win
by James Buddell|
Andy Murray looks to cap off a banner year with another standout performance on home soil after clinching his place in the semi-finals of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals for the third time. The third seed and British favourite defeated seventh seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-2, 7-6(3) on Friday to improve to a 2-1 record in Group A.
Murray, playing his first tournament at home as a Grand Slam champion, will attempt to build on his success this year in Great Britain. He reached the Wimbledon final for the first time in July, finishing runner-up to Roger Federer, and returned to the All England Club a month later to defeat the Swiss in the gold medal match at the Summer Olympics.
He now has his sights set on a third straight final in London, his first title at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals and the possibility of setting himself up to take a crack at the No. 1 South African Airways ATP Ranking next year.
The Scot joins Federer and Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals, and looked ahead to a potential match-up with one of his rivals. "I think over the years, I got used to playing those guys a couple of times in a week. Also with Rafa, as well. It's happened quite a few times. It's not something that I'm afraid of. I know it's incredibly difficult and challenging to beat guys like that back to back, but it's doable. But you're obviously going to have to play great tennis to do that, and I'm aware of that."
Murray hit 18 winners and three aces, winning 12 of his 15 points at the net. Tsonga committed 36 unforced errors, winning just 12 of his 31 second service points in the one-hour and 36-minute clash. The match was watched by a capacity 17,800 spectators at The O2 in London.
Murray negated Tsonga’s aggression in the opener to take a 4-0 lead in 20 minutes. Tsonga made 16 groundstroke errors in his bid to keep the rallies short, but Murray dictated play in the 33-minute set to clinch his place in the semi-finals.
"In some ways, feels like you're serving for the match when you know you're through if you win that," said Murray. "I was very focused from the start of the match. I got off to a good start."
Determined to play his A-game, Tsonga didn’t change his game-plan of all-out attack. As a result, his error count increased to beyond 25 as Murray took a 2-0 lead. Seemingly in control, at 4-3, Murray dropped to 0/40 after a lapse in concentration. Tsonga hit a winning return to draw level, much to the delight of the crowd. His athleticism produced spectacular results.
"I'm somebody who never give up," Tsonga said of his fightback. "So sometimes you are not playing a good tennis, and you keep fighting, you keep believing in you, and then it comes better and better."
At 5-6, the weight of pressure got the better of Murray as he served to stay in the set. Two game points at 40/30 and advantage went begging. A backhand down the line went into the net at deuce and suddenly Tsonga had a set point. But the Frenchman could not react quickly enough to a body serve. The set was decided on a tie-break.
Tsonga attempted to attack the net, but his desire to rush in caused mistakes. Murray changed ends with a 4-2 lead and a much-needed confidence boost in the tie-break. Tsonga fell apart. Moments later, Murray recorded his 56th match win of the year with an ace to end the 62-minute set.
Tsonga, who finished runner-up to Roger Federer in last year’s final, dropped to a 55-25 season record. He has struggled against fellow Top 10 players this year with a 1-15 mark. His lone win came over then No. 9-ranked Juan Martin del Potro at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in May.
"I will keep some positive things," said Tsonga. "I played some really good players. I was not that far. So I'm sure if I work a lot, if I improve, I will have a chance to beat them for the next season."