November 11, 2014
Andy Murray is back in the reckoning at the World Tour Finals after a 6-3, 7-5 victory over Milos Raonic. But the Brit number one must show even better form against Roger Federer on Thursday if he is to prevail in what has become the most mouth-watering clash of the round-robin stage by far.
The inconsistent Scot cannot even expect to command the lion’s share of support against Federer in London’s O2 Arena. Not after the legendary Swiss received such a rapturous reception before he defeated Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-2 on Day Three.
Federer, the most loved player in the world, the most followed on twitter, the man who earned an awesome 65 per cent of the poll for the planet’s favourite player, will not be short of fanatical friends when a typically cosmopolitan crowd convenes for that key encounter.
One more set for Roger will earn him the right to advance, whatever happens elsewhere. But Federer needs to win all five of his potential matches to claim world number one – and even then he must hope Novak Djokovic slips up earlier than is generally imaginable.
Meanwhile Murray has edged ahead of Nishikori by virtue of a winning games ratio of 21-20, as opposed to the Japanese star’s losing ratio of 17-20.
A relieved Andy said later: ‘I’m happy to be back, it’s an unbelievable court to play on and a great atmosphere and it’s a nice match to look forward to against Roger. It’s always a pleasure to play against Roger, one of the greatest players who has ever played, I’m looking forward to it.’
Federer couldn’t wait for his meeting with Murray either. ‘I always look forward to playing Andy, we’ve played some of the greatest matches for both of us in the past, Olympic finals and Wimbledon finals. It’s nice seeing him back playing well.’
However, Murray’s win on Day Three was largely down to a measly 38 per cent first serve success rate from Canadian Raonic, whose game is normally built on phenomenal service power above all.
But Murray’s Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award, presented after his victory over Raonic, was entirely down to his own good work, driven by the fact that he is a genuinely caring person behind the scenes. No wonder he has best man duties for his close friend and former cancer sufferer Ross Hutchins in the next fortnight…and will always feel saddened by the passing of fellow Scot Elena Baltacha.
Speaking of his award, Murray explained: ‘Arthur Ashe was an amazing man and he did great things. As for Ross, it has been a tough couple of years for him and I’m a bit nervous for my best man speech for him. Elena I knew from when I was very, very young. It puts everything into perspective and I’ll do my best for the rest of my career for issues like that.’
Andy squandered two break points to go 3-1 ahead in the first set but he took his chance to break for 4-2. Raonic lacked coordination and composure and Murray claimed the first set with ease at 6-3.
The second set wasn’t quite so straightforward. When Murray broke to go 2-1 ahead, Raonic broke straight back. But the younger man crumbled on his own serve to go 5-6 behind at the vital moment – and Murray took his chance ruthlessly when he served for the match.
For his part, Federer served so well that he seemed to throw Nishikori off his normally-aggressive game. Even Roger couldn’t understand why Japan’s hero had played so poorly.
He admitted: ‘I was expecting a very difficult match and Kei can play better – but I’m very pleased with my win today. I’m surprised at the result, I didn’t expect Kei to miss this much.’
He won’t expect Murray to give way so politely. That showdown should be a cracker. The World Tour Finals are just starting to warm up. Lucky us! And we have Wimbledon 2015 to look forward to next summer! Want to secure the ideal Christmas present by guaranteeing your tickets for the biggest tournament of them all? Look no further.