BARCLAYS ATP WORLD TOUR FINALS 2012
Djokovic Remains Perfect In Group A After Edging Murray In Match Of Week
by James Buddell|
Top seed Novak Djokovic remains on course to add to his 2008 title at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals after he improved to 2-0 in Group A round-robin play with a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 victory over third seed Andy Murray at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals on Wednesday. The most eagerly anticipated match-up of the championships, at The O2 in London, pitted together this year’s Sony Open Tennis, US Open and Shanghai Rolex Masters finalists.
Djokovic, committed 40 unforced errors - four fewer than Murray - but won 22 of his 30 points at the net in an aggressive and high-quality clash, which was watched by 17,651 spectators. “[It was] another great match, another great performance from both of us,” said Djokovic. “I hope that people who watched it agree with my opinion? I didn't expect anything less other than a tough match that went down the wire and was decided on the last point.
“The good thing about this format, it gives you a day to recover. I'm going to need that day tomorrow. [I will] just try to take it easy, work on some things a little bit on the practice. Then, of course, get on the court and try to win. It was really important obviously for me to win this match today, as it was for Andy. I will try to focus and win every match that I play on.” Djokovic plays fifth seed Tomas Berdych on Friday, when semi-final qualification from Group A will be finalised.
Murray capitalised on a slow start from Djokovic, breaking the Serbian’s serve to 30 with a forehand approach winner to end a fabulous sixth point in the pair’s 17th meeting. It proved to be the only service break of the set, which Murray could have won 6-3 had he not been forced into hitting a crosscourt forehand long in a lengthy ninth game.
Murray, playing with confidence under the guidance of Ivan Lendl, a five-time former champion at the season-ending championships, clinched the set to love, having lost just three of 23 service points. On five occasions he passed Djokovic at the net, committing 12 unforced errors to 17 for the year-end World No. 1. Djokovic won just three of his second service points in the 44-minute set.
Djokovic continued to mis-time his strokes and very nearly lost his serve at 1-1, but a drive-volley forehand was ruled in – after a Hawkeye challenge – at 30/40. Three games later, it was Murray who found himself in trouble. Mixing up his tactics at 30/40, he came in to serve and volley but over-hit a backhand volley long to gift Djokovic a 4-2 lead. Djokovic grew in confidence, closing out the 38-minute set to love. With just eight unforced errors and four points lost on his serve it was a reversal of fortunes that guaranteed an enthralling decider.
The majority of the capacity crowd let out a collective groan at 1-1, when Murray lost his serve. He saved one break point at 0/40 when he got the better of Djokovic in a baseline rally, but then made his sixth groundstroke error of the set. Murray’s resistance may have ended at 0/30, 1-3, but in a nine-minute game he stayed in touch.
Having squandered match points in the last three tournaments he has played – the Rakuten japan Open Tennis Championships, Shanghai Rolex Masters and BNP Paribas Masters – Murray could have started to doubt himself as Djokovic began to control the baseline rallies. But he knuckled down and earned two break point chances at 3-4, 15-40. A wild forehand, set the Scot screaming in annoyance, but one point later the match was level. Momentum was shifting back in Murray’s favour.
Djokovic isn’t the year-end World No. 1 for nothing, though. Drawing on all his skills, the Serbian stayed alive, attacking the net with greater frequency to keep Murray behind the baseline. Two sloppy errors from Murray at 5-5, saw him fall to 15/40. He saved one break point with an ace, but a 17th forehand error gave Djokovic an opportunity to serve for his 72nd win in 84 matches this year. Incredibly, Murray played fearlessly and created two break points. But he was denied the break by Djokovic, who celebrated victory in two hours and 35 minutes when Murray hit a backhand long. Twenty one of Murray's 44 unforced errors came in the 72 minute set.
"The last two minutes of the match probably is what decided it," said Murray. "He broke from 15/40, and then I had 15/40 next game and didn't break … I had a chance in the third set. You would hope that one game wouldn't decide the outcome of a whole match."
Djokovic is now 21-10 against Top 10 opponents in the South African Airways ATP Rankings in 2012.
“It was important for me after dropping a first set to stay mentally tough and believe that I could get my opportunities, and when they were presented to try to step in and use them. I don't think I played bad in the first set. It was him playing really well, serving extremely well. He lost only [a] couple of points on his first serve throughout the whole set and then he made some unforced errors. He allowed me to get back to the match. Then I think it was quite even up to the last point."
On Tuesday, Djokovic received two 2012 ATP World Tour Awards presented by Moët & Chandon. ATP Executive Chairman and President Brad Drewett presented ATP World Tour No. 1 and Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year awards in a special on-court ceremony.
The 25-year-old winner of five tour-level titles this year is bidding to capture the 33rd title of his career. Murray, also 25, beat Berdych 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Monday in his opening Group A encounter. The two-time former semi-finalist, making his fifth straight appearance, will take on Tsonga on Friday. Murray drops to a 55-15 match record on the season, which includes the London 2012 Olympics gold medal and US Open title.