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ATP World Tour Finals: Djokovic squeezes out narrow win over Murray to edge closer to semis

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The two hottest properties in men's tennis, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, collided for the 17th time in their novak_djokovicprofessional careers and the seventh time this season with a place in the semi-finals of the ATP World Tour Finals all but secure for the victor. Both men had won three times this year with Djokovic leading the head-to-head county 9 to 7. While not a knock-out match, there was every chance that the winner would go through to the semis of the tournament, while the loser would need to win his final match of the Group stages to book his berth in the Final 4.

Murray started the brighter, taking the opening set without much fuss, but Djokovic came back strongly at the half-way stage of the second set to win it, before going up an early break in the decider. The Serb had opportunities to extend his advantage right through the final set, but Murray hung in there, and took advantage of a rare poor service from Djokovic to tie things up heading into the business end of the match. Djokovic though found another gear when he needed it, and played some clutch tennis to squeeze out a thoroughly deserved 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 win.

 

The match got off to a perfect start for the British no.1 with three unforced errors from Djokovic's forehand giving Murray a breakpoint in the very first game. The US Open champion made the most of the opportunity playing some terrific tennis to rip a backhand down the line to set up an easy put away to nudge ahead, much to the delight of the home fans. A hold to love consolidated the early break as Murray opened up a 2-0 lead.

A visible aspect of Murray's play was his refusal to concede the baseline to Djokovic, shortening his backswing and taking the ball on the rise in an attempt to ensure that the Serb could not dictate play.

Djokovic finally got himself on the board in the third game, and needed to wait till the 6th to win a point on Murray's serve, such was the quality on play on offer from the Briton. Djokovic gave himself a glimmer of a chance at 15-30 in the 8th game, but Murray was quick to serve his way out of trouble. The world no.3 had a set point on the Djokovic serve, but failed to convert. It mattered little though as he served out the opening set in 44 minutes to pull ahead much to the delight of the partisan crowd.

Murray had a chance to pull ahead early in the second set, a foruitous net cord giving him a break point in the third game, but Djokovic averted the danger with a picture perfect forehand. There were finally signs of a reversal of fortunes in the 6th game as the Djoker earned his first chance to break serve in the match, and took full toll to go ahead 4-2. The world no.1 made the most of the opportunity to quickly wrap up proceedings to send this match into a decider.

With the momentum firmly on his side, Djokovic broke serve early in the final set to go 2-1 in front. The Serb had chances in the 5th and 7th games on the Murray serve to take an insurance break, but on both occasions Murray hung in to keep himself close in the final set. His perseverance was rewarded in the 8th game as he broke back to bring the set back on level terms at 4-4.

The next two games were nervy affairs, with both men going 15-30 down, but managing to claw their way out of trouble without conceding break points. However, the 11th game saw Djokovic clinch that fourth point to go ahead 15-40, and a forehand error from Murray gave the world no.1 the vital break for 6-5.

The drama continued unabated with Murray getting two chances to break back to force this match into a tiebreak, but some fantastic percentage play from Djokovic saw him wrap up the match with his first opportunity to seal a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 win.

It wasn't the prettiest tennis match, with the duo sharing 84 unforced errors almost evenly between them, but it was a tense affair which kept the fans on the edge of their seats, and despite not getting the result they wanted, the full house at the O2 Arena in London certainly got their monies worth.

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