I know it was an incredible match. The tennis at the end and in the second set was high level. Andy Murray
The race to the Barclays tournament
By Roger Childs
The ATP World Tour Finals in London, sponsored by Barclays Bank, is the toughest tournament of the year. Djokovic, Federer, Wawrinka and Cilic have qualified, so it’s a battle for the other four spots.
Over the weekend, Scotsman Andy Murray won in the Valencia Open and now has a strong chance of being amongst the Barclays chosen.
Murray on the comeback trail
The Scotsman has had a mixed year and after bowing out in the September US Open quarter finals to Novak Djokovic, he dropped out of the top 10 rankings.
However since then his fortunes have changed.
- Shenzhen Open: beat Tommy Robredo in the final in three sets
- Beijing Open: made the semi-finals where he lost to Djokovic, the eventual winner
- Vienna Open: beat David Ferrer in the final to claim his 30th career title
So with his new coach, Amélie Mauresmo, he was very keen to win in Valencia to keep accumulating ranking points in a bid to qualify for the ATP Finals.
Another victory over Ferrer, in the semi-finals, saw him facing the unseeded Tommy Robredo in the final. Could Murray win his third tournament in two months? It would go down to the wire.
A very close match
Playing on home soil with plenty of crowd support, Robredo nearly beat the No 3 seed. The Valencia stadium is one of the most spectacular tennis arenas in the world, and the ultra-modern building has huge curved columns inside which would do justice to a cathedral.
Murray lost his serve once in the first set and the Spaniard closed it out 6-3. It was very warm night and the Scotsman looked exhausted during the later stages of this set. But as one of the commentators remarked: Andy Murray is never as tired as he looks! The tennis never rose to any great heights and there were many long rallies which often ended with unforced errors. There was only one ace and no love games.
However, the quality of play improved dramatically in the second set and Robredo had a chance to take a 5-2 lead. However, a reenergized Murray fought back and it went to a tie break. The Spaniard had two match points, but with the title beckoning, he played too defensively, and the Scotsman, now in top form, won the breaker 9-7.
The third set was equally hard fought and there were many superb rallies with great winners from both players: Murray with some brilliant down-the-line backhands and powerful cross-court forehands; and Robredo with delicate volleys and well timed smashes.
Despite the heat, Murray also showed amazing speed round the court and pulled off some great retrievals. The Spaniard had another match point at 6-5, but again the Scotsman rallied. The heat was telling on both players and at times they even sat down between points!
Another tie break and Robredo had two more match points but again Murray’s powerful, attacking play saw him come through and win it 10-8.
At 3 hours 19 minutes, it was the longest three-0set match of the year and it took its toll on the players. The usual post match handshakes saw both players support one another as they collapsed exhausted on the net. Murray was humble in victory and acknowledged the battle Robredo had given him. I played well at the right moments! he said.
The race to London
The BNP Paribas Masters in Paris is now underway and there are plenty of ranking points on offer for the London contenders.
In the bid to make the final four for the ATP Finals, Murray is now in fifth spot with Kei Nishikori, Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer not far behind. Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov are further back again, but would need to be finalists in Paris to have any chance.
The Scotsman looks very likely to be in London for the Barclays, but will be keen to maintain his good form in the French tournament.