By Ros Satar at the ATP World Tour Finals, London
- Andy Murray  beat Novak Djokovic  6-3 6-4
- Captures his first season-ending finale title
- With it, he is the year-end No. 1
LONDON, ENGLAND – Andy Murray overcame a monumental time on court to ease past four-time defending champion Novak Djokovic denying him both a sixth title overall and the stats as year-end No. 1.
Perhaps it was a little uncharitable at the start of Andy Murray‘s practice earlier this afternoon to pre-judge what was to come. But in reading the media notes, in seeing what we saw with the epic win over Milos Raonic and his overall time on court, it was hard to believe that Murray would have anything left but fumes in the tank come Sunday evening.
Even his start made even the most loyal hearted quake in their slippers as Murray started the proceedings with a very tired looking double fault. Yet implausibly, in the face of a second double fault, he held.
In fact somehow despite certainly looking the fresher of the earliest exchanges, Novak Djokovic was completely devoid of any break point chances in the first set, and yet somehow Murray managed to perplex him with two, unconverted, before getting his breakthrough to snap the Djokovic serve and come out to take the first set.
Djokovic’ backhand looked as though it was still in the locker room, accounting for 11 of 16 unforced errors in the first set, as the strain of exertion coming from the Serbian wears in stark contrast to the more sprightly step of the Brit as the match wore on.
The momentum stayed with Murray in to the start of the second set, breaking an ill-at-ease Djokovic. He stopped the rot at least by getting on the board but his timing especially on overheads and volleys was beginning to fail him.
There can never be any complacency when it comes to Djokovic, but again some very laboured shots and typically frustrating whipped Murray winners brought up three break points. Perhaps inevitably it was another unforced error that truly put Djokovic on the back foot as he trailed 1-4 giving Murray the comfort of a double break cushion.
Remember what we said about complacency? The double faults that looked like they would be a factor in Murray’s start surfaced just as it looked like he would comfortably close out a hold for 5-1 – instead he was facing his first break point Murray floated the ball just long and suddenly Djokovic had a glimmer of hope.
Things were looking a very different prospect as Djokovic returned to the kind of serving form her showed at the start of the set – holding to love and looking dangerous once more.
It was a big test of nerve for Murray, and the tennis watching throng. A thigh-achingly long rally and Murray floated a ball wide to open the door still wider for Djokovic. It was time to dig out the big serves again and more patient play that had people turning blue as they held their breath, before another Djokovic backhand error. A broken string added to the serving drama, but it was enough of a lead to put Murray just a game away from a momentous win that no-one saw coming.
Djokovic had one more comfortable hold to help things along as he put Murray in the spotlight to serve it out. The crowd made no secret of how they wanted this game to go, giving Murray a rapturous lift as he took to the court. An unforced error, an ace, followed by Murray netting twice in a row – nerves were jangling.
Murray drew Djokovic in and the resulting lob floated long enough to give Murray championship point. From somewhere Djokovic saved not one, but two match points and some were readying themselves for a comeback, as Murray struggled to find a first serve.
Just as it was third time’s the charm on the break points in the first set, so it was with the match-point – the return wide to give Murray the win, the World No. 1 and to crown him the undisputed best player in the world thus far.
Djokovic did not hesitate to agree, saying: “I guess it’s required from a player to come out on the court in these particular occasions, playing top guys, to come out with his top game. I wasn’t closest to that. There was no serious chance for me to win today’s match. From the very beginning we could see that. He was just a better player all in all.”
He continued: “We should all let Andy enjoy this a little bit. Don’t ask him questions about next season. He deserves to be in the moment and to really take everything in what he achieved.
“His team as well, and his wife. She has to get some credit, guys. She gave birth this year. He has traveled all over the place. I know how it is with my wife Jelena, what she had to go through as a mother back home with a little baby. So, Kim, well done. She’s maybe made even a bigger effort than Andy (smiling).”
Murray had earlier spoken about how he and Djokovic rarely talked about tennis or the fight down to the wire for the No. 1 spot, but instead about families and the challenges they both faced as young fathers.
He said: “We chatted at length this year quite a lot because obviously I became a father the first time. We spoke about the difficulty in keeping the sort of balance in your life with the family and the traveling and the work and everything.
“I think both of us have been with our now wives a long time, pretty much since we were like 18, 19 years old. We met each other’s wives together at that age, as well. We’ve known each other a very long time. Regardless of what some of you may think, we have a good relationship.
“It’s not always easy when you’re playing on court in the biggest matches with a lot at stake, but we’ve always got on well with each other, each other’s teams and families.”
He will be ranked No. 1 for the Australian Open, and while the challenge to stay at No. 1 will be a tough one, it is not the only thing on his mind.
“Now that I’ve got there, I obviously would be motivated to try and stay in that position. The majors are what gets me working hard and what really, really motivates me.
“When I go away in December to train, I’m training with the Australian Open in mind. Because of the best-of-five-set matches, they’re the ones you have to really put in the extra work for and the extra training for.”
Murray will start his 2017 season at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.
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