Two months after his winning his first Grand Slam tennis title at the U.S. Open, Andy Murray soaked up the hometown adulation as he opened the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals by beating Tomas Berdych.
Murray, the first British man in 76 years to win a major singles championship, received a huge ovation from the crowd when he walked onto court at the O2 arena in London before beating Berdych 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
“It was good to be back playing in the U.K.,” Murray, 25, said in a news conference after his first match on home soil since winning in New York. “The noise and the atmosphere at the beginning of the match was great.”
The Dunblane, Scotland-born Murray will face top-ranked Novak Djokovic in his second group match tomorrow in a rematch of their U.S. Open final, which lasted close to five hours. Murray said he’s hoping home advantage will give him the edge in his seventh meeting with the Serb this season.
“It’s important, the last week of the year when everyone’s a little bit tired, to have that atmosphere, big crowd to give you that extra little push that you need to play good tennis,” said Murray, who lost to Djokovic in Shanghai last month after having five match points.
The ATP World Tour Finals feature a round-robin format. The top eight players in the Race to London standings are divided into two groups of four, with the top two in each section moving into the knockout semifinals.
Defending champion Roger Federer of Switzerland opens Group B play today against Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia, while Spain’s David Ferrer faces former U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina in the evening session.
Second-ranked Federer, 31, is trying win the event for a record seventh time. Murray has twice made the semifinals, while Djokovic won the tournament when it was being held in Shanghai in 2008.
“Playing Andy is always a big challenge,” Djokovic, 25, said in a courtside interview after beating France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 last night. “We’ve had some great encounters in the last couple of months.’
Murray has had a breakthrough year and will finish the season ranked No. 3 for the first time in his career.
After losing his first Wimbledon final to 17-time Grand Slam champion Federer, Murray beat the Swiss a month later in the gold-medal match at the London Olympics. That victory was followed by a first major title at the U.S. Open in September, ending a run of four straight losses in Grand Slam finals.
Murray had told his coach Ivan Lendl earlier in the season that he was concerned his life might change if he finally won a major and that he wanted it “to stay the same,” he’d told reporters in New York.
Lendl, an eight-time major champion, put his mind at ease, Murray said at the time, by telling him not much would change, except for “getting nicer tables in restaurants and getting to play on all the good golf courses for free.”
Murray was reunited with Lendl this week in their first tournament together since the U.S. Open, a victory that Murray said helped make him more relaxed during key points in matches.
“I’ve learnt a lot this year how I need to play those big points in big games,” Murray said yesterday. “It’s that rather than confidence.”