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ATP World Tour Finals 2016: Murray outlasts Raonic in semifinal classic

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Andy Murray outlasted Milos Raonic 5-7, 7-6(5), 7-6(9) in a 3hr38min classic to progress to his first final at the World Tour Finals. The World No.1 was staring down the barrel a set and a break down but his characteristic stubbornness saw him grit his way past an equally determined Milos Raonic who was playing his first semifinal at the season finale. Milos Raonic for his part played a fantastic match pushing the World No.1 all the way before faltering only at the final hurdle.

The Canadian exits the tournament with his head held high having taken both Andy Murray and Djokovic earlier in the week, to the brink. Murray now awaits the winner of the second semifinal between Novak Djokovic and Kei Nishikori. If Djokovic wins, the final will decide who winds up as the year end World No.1.

Earlier Henri Kontinen & John Peers upset the Bryan brothers 7-6(2), 6-4 to reach the finals in their season finale debut. The Bryan brothers have won the title on four previous occasions but were unable to give themselves a shot at a fifth as they were trumped by an in form duo on a nine match winning streak having won the Paris Masters last week and going unbeaten at the World Tour Finals thus far.

Andy Murray began the semifinal confidently against a player he’s beaten on 5 previous occasions this year. Murray’s gameplan is to return the 140 MPH Raonic bomb (about 20% more returns in play than the rest of the ATP) and then proceed to boss the rallies. Two love holds and forcing Raonic into a bit of a bother in his first service game did not suggest that much was to be different. But Raonic has improved and on a court that is medium fast this year rather than medium slow like in the past, his offensive game has flourished. Slowly but surely the tide began to turn as Raonic began to hold with ease and started to put the pressure on the Murray serve. The 9th game was a marathon that went to 5 deuces and forced Murray to save 3 break points before holding. That incessant battering may not have won Raonic the break in the 9th game but in the 11th Murray double faulted on the first break point to hand Raonic the break. The big serving Canadian did not need a second invitation as he served it out impeccably to take the first set 7-5.

If the first set was a slow burner that exploded at the end, the second set began crackling from the outset. Murray held break points in the very first Raonic service game but failed to capitalise and Raonic held with an ace. In a reversal of fortunes, Murray then proceeded to net a forehand to hand Raonic the break and with that serve one might well have expected the Canadian to “hold” on for victory. Only, he didn’t. A procession of forehand errors gave Murray three breakpoints and a pass drew him level straight after being broken. Suddenly Murray was looking buoyed and he began to play with intent. He generated more break points in the 6th game and went 0-30 in the 10th but Raonic held on gamely throughout to take the set to a tiebreak. The tie break swung both ways as Murray moved ahead 4-1 before Raonic levelled at 5-5. There could not have been a better time for Murray to strike and opportunistically he drove a forehand, attacked the net and hit a delectable short cross court volley to set up set point. He duly converted with a big service winner to take the breaker 7-5 and level the match at a set apiece.

The final set stayed on serve as neither player allowed the other much of a look atleast until the 8th game. In the 9th Raonic sprayed his forehand handing Murray the break that gave the Brit the chance to serve out the match. It was a chance that would pass Murray by. Raonic needed to respond pronto and relentlessly attacking, he broke straight back with a massive smash to keep himself in the contest at 5-5. But this match of fluctuating fortunes had more twists up its sleeve – the 11th and 12th saw a repeat dose as unbelievably Murray broke Raonic, had the chance to serve it out only to be denied a second time by a defiant Raonic to take the match to a deciding tiebreak. The tiebreak itself was a miniclassic with the tension mounting, the lead exchanging hands before Murray claimed victory when a final Raonic forehand approach hit the tape at 10-9.

Final Scores:

A.Murray d M.Raonic 5-7, 7-6(5), 7-6(9)

H.Kontinen/J.Peers d B.Bryan/M.Bryan 7-6(2), 6-4