Novak Djokovic fought back from a set down to defeat Andy Murray at the ATP World Tour Finals in an error-strewn rematch of the U.S. Open tennis final.
The world No. 1 defeated third-ranked Murray from Britain 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in the group phase of the season-ending tournament at London’s O2 arena.
“We really pushed each other until the end, until the last ball,” Djokovic, the runner-up in New York, said in a court-side interview. “It could have gone either way.”
The Serbian right-hander produced 23 winners and 40 unforced errors, while Murray had 28 winners and 44 mistakes. It was the seventh meeting this season between the two, who first played each other as 13-year-olds.
The ATP World Tour Finals, won last year for a record sixth time by Switzerland’s Roger Federer, feature a round-robin format. The world’s best eight singles players and doubles pairs are divided into two groups of four, with the top two in each section moving into the knockout semifinals.
Djokovic, who now leads Murray 10-7, will move to the semifinals should France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeat former Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic in the other group match later today. Murray and Djokovic both won their opening matches in Group A earlier in the week.
‘Walk the Dog’
Djokovic won’t be watching the Tsonga-Berdych contest.
“I have to walk the dog tonight,” he said. He’s been seen at the O2 arena this week walking his poodle, Pierre.
Murray is having a breakthrough season. After making his first Wimbledon final in July, he won the gold medal at the London Olympics in August. In September, he outlasted Djokovic in a five-set encounter lasting almost five hours at the U.S. Open to end Britain’s 76-year long wait for a male Grand Slam singles champion.
Australian Open winner Djokovic, who will finish the season as the top-ranked player on the ATP World Tour rankings for a second consecutive year, was forced on the back foot by Murray from the start today.
Stepping inside the court to take the ball early, the 25-year-old right-hander from Scotland dictated the rallies. He broke serve in the second game to a huge cheer from the crowd with a forehand pass.
Watched by his coach and eight-time Grand Slam singles champion Ivan Lendl, Murray served out of the first set with a love game on a backhand error by his opponent.
Djokovic regained the initiative early in the second set. Reading his opponent’s serve better than in the first, he broke for a 4-2 lead as a serve-and-volley combination by Murray floated long. Play went into a decider after Djokovic easily held serve to clinch the second set.
A backhand error handed Djokovic an early break in the third as Murray gestured angrily.
After saving break points at 3-1 and 4-2 down, Murray seemed to have regained momentum when he broke back for 4-4. The recovery was short-lived as he handed Djokovic the break back at 5-5 with two ground-stroke errors.
Serving for the match at 6-5, Djokovic saved two break points before winning on a backhand error by Murray.
“The last two minutes of the match probably is what decided it,” Murray told reporters. “He broke from 15-40, and then I had 15-40 next game and didn’t break, so that was the moment that decided the match.”