By Ros Satar at the ATP World Tour Finals, in London
- Jamie Murray & Bruno Soares got 3-0 to book semi-final spot
- Milos Raonic  def. Dominic Thiem  7-6(5) 6-3
LONDON, ENGLAND – Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares got a boost for their bid to become the No. 1 doubles pairing for the year, finishing top of the group 3-0, while Milos Raonic advanced to the semi-finals.
Jamie Murray & Bruno Soares top Group Edberg/Jarryd
We have talked much over the past month about the unique challenges that the round robin format throws up and today was no different. Two-time Grand Slam champions Jamie Murray & Bruno Soares needed just seven game to guarantee their qualification.
They broke the pairing of Ivan Dodig & Marcelo Melo early in the first set and held on to that single advantage for the first set, before suffering a late lapse in the second set to give their opponents a glimmer of light.
A double mini-break advantage helped in the match tie-break so that when the Croatian/Brazilian pair snared a mini-break back they were not unduly concerned, getting the win and finishing on top of the group with a 3-0 record.
Of course as you might expect with a double-Murray No. 1 narrative as the undercurrent more strong than a wild night on the Thames, we can usually count on the older Murray to play it down, declaring he didn’t care how they achieved the No. 1 doubles pairing.
Soares however had some strong feelings: “No I care. Like we said the whole time, we got to do our thing here. I mean, before wanting to be No. 1, we want to win the tournament. By that we got to win the semifinals. That’s what we’re here for. We have to focus on our side. I think it’s the most important thing.”
Murray continued: “We knew we had to win I think seven games, which is a weird kind of mentality to go into the match. We played great the first two matches. We won two matches, two sets. We still hadn’t done enough to go through.
“It was a bit odd. Of course, we really wanted to win because we wanted to get the points to try to get closer to No. 1. Mentally, I don’t know, it was an odd situation for us.
“I think we did well to win. We played some good stuff at the right moments. Really happy to have won three matches, be through to the semis.”
If Pierre-Hugues Herbert & Nicolas Mahut lose on Friday in their final round robin match, then Murray & Soares will end the season as the No.1 doubles team.
Redemption for Milos Raonic
It was an exercise in super-pumped fist-pumping as Milos Raonic came out of the blocks ready to make his mark. On his first tome out two years ago, he withdrew after losing two of his round robin matches with a leg-muscle tear.
Of course it looked as though history might repeat itself, with Raonic sustaining a grade 1 quad tear but his movement and resolve this time around has been a stark contrast.
He might have lost in straight sets to Novak Djokovic but it was quite possibly the closest he had pushed the 12-time Grand Slam champion in their eight encounters, and coming out, he kept control of his emotions as the young Austrian pushed them towards a tie-break.
Even then, Thiem’s resolve was fierce, as we have seen in his matches here this week – he had the big-serving Canadian under pressure, before Raonic rescued himself to snaffle the first set.
From there the momentum stayed firmly in the land of the maple-leaf, with Raonic breaking right at the start of the second set. Ot was all the gap he would need. Thiem battled valiantly to keep the gap to stay in contention, but his single handed backhand deserted him, handing Raonic the break for the match, and ultimately for a place in the semi-finals.
For Thiem there is a lot to be very proud of (if little stubborn, when it comes to scheduling in 2017).
“First of all, I hope that I will be back here in the future. It’s one of the best tournaments. It was an amazing experience. I’m also happy that I won one match and that I still had the chance to go into the semifinals on the last match.
“Here are the best eight players of the season. Every match is close probably. Yeah, you have to be on hundred percent from the very start. For sure I learned a lot of things.”
Two years ago, Raonic cut a very disconsolate figure having to withdraw on his debut. This time around it was a very different story.
He explained: “I think the differences were the other thing I suffered within two days sort of seemed impossible. I felt like I was risking a lot. I think I was risking a lot – not a lot, but a fair amount by coming out here and playing as well.
“I had how many days, eight days, before my first match to really see where I was at. I didn’t have that comfort last time in two days. I had days on court before that, as well.
“I was able to gather more information. In a way it’s maybe a little plus considering all the times I have struggled with injuries this year and so forth, over the last four years. Actually, let’s say my whole career (smiling). If I can be diagnosed with longer recovery times and actually heal up quicker, I’ll take that.”
Raonic will play the winner of Group John McEnroe in the semi-finals.
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