The fifth-ranked Ferrer beat Murray 6-4, 7-5 at London’s O2 arena. Murray, the world No. 3, was one of the pre-tournament favorites to win the season-ending event. It was Ferrer’s first win over Murray, who received treatment on his hips and back after the first set, on a surface other than clay in nine meetings.
“I feel good,” Ferrer said in a courtside interview after he won his opening group match with a backhand winner. “I played very consistent. I served well in the important moments. I was maybe a bit lucky because Andy has a problem with his back.”
Defending champion Federer had been the 15-8 favorite at U.K. bookmaker William Hill Plc to win a record sixth ATP World Tour Finals title. That means a successful $8 bet would return $15 plus the original stake. Murray was at 11-4, followed by Djokovic at 4-1 and Nadal at 5-1.
Murray, 24, had started 2011 with a runnerup spot to world No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia in the Australian Open finals. Following a straight-sets defeat to the Serb, Murray struggled with his form and motivation in the months after Melbourne, losing in the opening rounds of three successive tournaments to lower-ranked players.
He regrouped at Roland Garros in June, where he reached his first semifinal on Parisian clay. He also made the last four at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, losing in all three semifinals to second-ranked Rafael Nadal of Spain.
“It was at the French Open I started to get back on the right track and was understanding how I needed to play to win and what I needed to work on,” Murray said a round-table interview the day before the start of the ATP Finals. “It is never one thing in particular that makes you have a great run. It is confidence. It is such a mental game, tennis.”
The ATP Finals feature a round-robin format, with the top eight singles and doubles players on the ATP rankings divided into two groups. Each plays the three others in the group, with the top two in each section moving into the knockout semifinals.
Today against Ferrer, Murray struggled from the start with the Spaniard’s consistency and defensive skills. Murray lost the first set as a wayward forehand struck from the baseline sailed out on his second set point, his 24th unforced error. The Spaniard, a finalist in 2006, produced 17 mistakes in the first set.
After receiving treatment from the trainer at the start of the second set, Murray’s form seemed to improve as he broke early on to take a 2-0 lead. Ferrer fought back to 3-3 as Murray struggled to hold serve. Ferrer got to his first match point with a forehand volley, and got past Murray with his 19th winner. Murray had 21 winners, and made 44 errors. Ferrer had 9 fewer mistakes.
Djokovic plays his first group match later in the day against Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic. The Serb is 69-4 this year and has won three Grand Slam singles titles and knocked Nadal out of the top spot.
Murray had entered the ATP Finals after taking titles in Bangkok, Tokyo and Shanghai after the U.S. Open. His career-best 17-match win streak came to an end at the Paris Masters two weeks ago, when he lost to seventh-ranked Berdych in the quarterfinals.
Defending champion Roger Federer and No. 2-ranked Nadal yesterday each won their group matches in three sets, against France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Mardy Fish of the U.S. respectively. Nadal and Federer will play each other tomorrow in their second group match.
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