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ATP World Tour Finals 2016: Murray outlasts Nishikori to top Group John McEnroe

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andy murrayAndy Murray overcame a stern challenge from Kei Nishikori 6-7(9), 6-4, 6-4 to go top in Group John McEnroe. The World No.1 took 3 hours and 20 minutes to finally outlast a superb Nishikori in what was undoubtedly the match of the tournament so far. Murray needed to win to keep ahead of Novak Djokovic in the race to the year end No.1 ranking. Nishikori played a superb game and fell just short in an encouraging result for the Japanese No.1. Murray now awaits the result of the Cilic - Wawrinka evening encounter where a win for Cilic will confirm Murray’s semifinal slot.

It seems to be Andy Murray’s modus operandi to start slow at this tournament. Whether by accident or design, the World No.1 has been struggling to get out of the blocks and oddly enough his opponents also seem to follow suit. Cilic on Monday and Nishikori today both struggled as well to bring their best against Murray. The games themselves went to serve as neither player was fundamentally able to sustain any kind of pressure often making the unforced error when aiming to go on the offense. Murray and Nishikori each hit 20 errors through that first set which took a tie break to decide a winner.


The tiebreak itself had two major swings the first at 3-3 to Nishikori who ripped forehand winners to give himself 3 set points at 6-3. Murray though responded with customary defensive resourcefulness to save all three set points; the best being the point at 5-6 where Nishikori sat on a short backhand and drilled it into the open cross court. Murray first anticipated where Kei would hit it, showed the speed of foot to track the ball down, then the speed of thought to work out the position to return the ball and finally the control to place the pass – breath-taking stuff! The points continued on serve till 10-9 when Murray against the grain, drove a forehand into the tramlines to drop the first set 9-11 in the breaker.

After the highs of such a close tiebreak a drop in intensity is often the case. The best players, Novak being a particular case in point, use this to their advantage. Murray as World No.1 did too. He broke Nishikori in the very first game of the second set and then consolidated the advantage with some excellent touch at the net. Nishikori to his credit quickly corrected course and attempted to restore parity eventually succeeding by breaking Murray to level things at 4-4. Murray though was not to be denied, responding swiftly to break Nishikori in the 9th game and despite some hiccups along the way, served out the set 6-4 to level the match at a set apiece. The momentum was with Murray and he did not squander it breaking Nishikori early in the third to go up 2-1. Despite Nishikori’s best efforts Murray staved off break points in the next game consolidating the break with an ace and a service winner. A further twist ensued with another round of breaks exchanged but Murray kept his nose in front to take the set and the match and go atop the Group John McEnroe leaderboard.

Final Scores:

A.Murray d K.Nishikori 6-7(9), 6-4, 6-4

H.Kontinen/J.Peers d R.Klaasen/R.Ram 6/3, 6/4