U.S. Open champion Andy Murray started the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London with a win against Tomas Berdych.
Competing in his first singles match on home soil since he won gold at the London Olympics, Murray beat the former Wimbledon finalist from the Czech Republic 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the tournament for the world’s best eight tennis players.
“It was a very tough one from the start, Tomas has had a great year,” Murray said in a court-side interview.
The third-ranked Murray received loud cheers from the crowd at London’s O2 arena as he walked onto court. The 25-year-old right-hander from Dunblane, Scotland, is having a breakthrough season, with Olympic victory followed by a first major title at the U.S. Open in September. His win in New York ended Britain’s 76-year long wait for a male British major singles champion.
The home support helped today, said Murray, who struggled to convert break points.
“I’ve been playing such big matches in London in the past few months,” Murray said. “So many people watching you helps.”
The ATP Finals feature a round-robin format. The top eight players in the ATP World Tour rankings are divided into two groups of four, with the top two in each section moving into the knockout semifinals.
Novak Djokovic of Serbia, who will end the season as the world’s top-ranked player for the second straight year, was drawn in the same group as Murray and will play France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the evening session.
Defending champion Roger Federer was placed in Group B, which starts tomorrow. The 17-time Grand Slam champion from Switzerland starts his campaign for a seventh ATP Finals title against Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic. Spain’s David Ferrer plays former U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina in the other match in Group B.
Murray was rusty in the first set, getting only half his first serves in, and missing five break points in the first five games. Serving at 2-3, Murray screamed as a forehand into the net handed the sixth-ranked Berdych the break. Serving at 5-3, the six-foot-five Czech saved two break points before taking the set on a forehand error by his opponent.
The match turned at 2-1 in the second set, when Murray finally broke Berdych on his 11th break point. Murray took the match into a decider as Berdych missed a backhand on set point.
Murray continued to keep Berdych under pressure, breaking at 1-1 in the third set on an unforced error. Dictating with his forehand, Murray quickly raced to a 4-2 lead and won the match as Berdych dumped a backhand in the net.
“It was a very, very good and solid match from both of us,” Berdych told reporters. “Unfortunately there was just a few small details that decided today.”
Murray, a two-time finalist at the season-ending event, said he treats the group matches “like a knockout, if you win the first two matches, you have a good chance of progressing.”