By Michael Stafford-Jones
- Andy Murray  beat Milos Raonic 5-7 7-6(5) 7-6(9) to reach the final of the ATP World Tour Finals
- He will face Novak Djokovic , who crushed Kei Nishikori  6-1 6-1
- These are five reasons why Murray will win the title
LONDON, ENGLAND – Andy Murray is hoping to achieve the perfect end to the best year of his career by winning the ATP World Tour Finals to end the year as the World No1. Here are five reasons why he will win.
He’s in the Best Form of his Life
This kind of form is outrageously good, and it explains why he deservedly became the number one player in the world in Paris. Furthermore, Djokovic’s four wins at the ATP World Tour Finals have meant that Murray has had to match him every step of the way to hold onto top spot.
The Brit was drawn in the more difficult group but beat Marin Cilic easily, battled past Kei Nishikori and withstood an early onslaught to overcome Stan Wawrinka. He then beat Milos Raonic to secure his place in the final.
Djokovic may have found form this week in the O2 Arena but Murray will still be the more confident player in the final. That’s what a 23-match winning streak does for you.
He’s a Fighter
At times in the first half of 2016, Djokovic made winning look so easy. While Murray is also able to do this some of the time, he frequently has to work hard for his wins, and there is nobody more dedicated in the tennis world than he is.
The Brit’s run to the French Open final provided plenty of examples of his fighting spirit: he came from behind to beat Radek Stepanek and Mathias Bourgue in five sets in the first two rounds, then battling past Richard Gasquet and Wawrinka in the quarter-final and semi-final respectively.
However, perhaps the most notable examples of Murray’s battling qualities this year have been his encounters with Nishikori and Raonic.
The World No. 1 beat Nishikori in a high-quality five-set match in the Davis Cup in May, lost to him in a close five-setter at the US Open and then toughed it out to beat him in a three hours and 20 minutes long clash at the O2 a few days ago.
Three times this year, Murray has fought back to beat Raonic after losing the first set. The first time was at the Australian Open, when he beat the Canadian in five sets; the second was at Queen’s, where he was a set and a break down; and the final time was in the semi-final of the ATP World Tour Finals, when he lost the first set 7-5 and then won two-break sets to emerge victorious from what was surely one of the best matches of 2016.
He’s Better at the Net
Djokovic is a brilliant all-round tennis player, as is Murray, but net play has played a major part in matches at the ATP World Tour Finals this year and the Serb is not as good as the Brit in this regard.
Murray has won key points at the net in all his matches so far, as have three of his opponents – Nishikori, Wawrinka and Raonic. The Japanese player was following a clear strategy and building on an approach that worked well for him against the Brit at Flushing Meadows.
However, it is not a tactic Djokovic is likely to use as most of the world’s top ten are better than he is at the net. Murray, on the other hand, typically times his forays to the net effectively and, if his timing is good again in the final, it will give him an important edge over the Serb.
It Means More to Him
When Djokovic lifted the French Open title in June, he celebrated achieving the last major aim in his tennis career. Afterwards, he has nothing left to prove to himself, no more summits to conquer.
Such was his apparent lack of focus in the months that followed, it is conceivable to suggest he may not be hungry to win the ATP World Tour Finals as he seems if he had not been heavily doubted in the press and Murray had not usurped him as the world’s best player.
These things have added spice to the occasion and motivated Djokovic to perform, but Murray’s motivation will be far greater. The Brit may currently hold the number one ranking, but if he does not beat the Serb in the final, he will lose it again having only had it for a short time. Furthermore, he will not end the year as the World No1 and earn the trophy associated with that achievement. He will be desperate not to miss out on this.
By contrast, Djokovic has been the year-ending number one on four previous occasions and achieving something a fifth time is rarely as meaningful as a first. When Murray reacted during and after his epic win over Raonic in the semi-final, you could see how important victory was to him, and he will just as hard, if not even harder, in the final.
It’s His Time
Scoff all you want at this suggestion, but sometimes in sport, as in life, things seem destined to happen. When Murray won the Olympic title in 2012, he described how Mo Farah’s victory in the 10,000m the previous evening had inspired him.
The Brit told The Telegraph: “I watched the athletics last night, and it was unbelievable. It was amazing to see Mo Farah run his final 400 metres in 53 seconds when I can only do it in 57 seconds when I’m fresh. That gave me the motivation to try to win the gold medal, because I wanted to be part of it if I could.”
Just imagine what might have happened if Farah had fallen on that final lap. Team GB would have lost some momentum and Murray would probably have gone into the Olympic final plagued by the doubts that hampered him in the eight consecutive Grand Slam finals he lost before finally winning one. Instead, thanks to Farah’s inspiration, he rode the crest of a wave to a mightily impressive victory over one of the greatest-ever tennis players: Roger Federer. It was almost certainly the turning point in the Brit’s career.
Murray is now a three-time Grand Slam champion and a record two-time Olympic champion and no longer needs outside inspiration to help over the winning line. But after all the devastating losses he has experienced in his career and all the hard work he has put in to get to this point, he will be feeling like he has earned his time in the sun and will want to make it last as long as possible. If he beats Djokovic in the final and finishes 2016 as the World No1, he could conceivably dominate 2017.
Murray v Djokovic in the final of the ATP World Tour Finals begins at 6pm GMT on 20 November.
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