Nishikori Beats Murray in First Group Match of ATP Finals

Kei Nishikori outplayed Andy Murray in his first group match at the ATP World Tour Finals in London.

Japan’s Nishikori, the first Asian player to qualify for the season-ending event for the eight best singles players, beat Murray 6-4, 6-4 at London’s O2 arena.

“I was a little bit tight in the beginning, but then I started to feel really well,” Nishikori, 24, told the crowd after he fired 20 winners past Murray. “The second set was almost perfect. I played a good serve and big forehand.”

Murray, the 2012 U.S. Open and 2013 Wimbledon champion, looked in command at the start of the first set as he broke on a double fault. The 27-year-old Briton then dropped his own serve in the next game, and lost the set as his opponent increasingly dictated play.

Trailing 3-0 in the second set, the sixth-ranked Murray saved three break points to hold serve in a game that lasted more than nine minutes. Back on serve at 5-4 down, Murray handed Nishikori two match points with a backhand in the net. A backhand long sealed Nishikori’s first win over Murray in four meetings.

“I knew he’s very consistent from the baseline, so I had to be more aggressive than usual,” Nishikori said.

Murray came to London having won three events in a month as he tried to boost his ranking to qualify for the ATP Finals.

“He was able to dictate a lot of the points, especially behind my second serve,” Murray said in a news conference. “I will have to play better to get through.”

Breakthrough Year

The fifth-ranked Nishikori is having a breakthrough season, winning four tournaments and reaching his first major final at the U.S. Open in September, where he lost to Croatia’s Marin Cilic.

The ATP Finals feature a round-robin format, with the top eight singles and doubles players divided into two groups. Each plays the three others in the group, with the top two in each section moving into the knockout semifinals.

In the other group match later today, six-time ATP Finals champion Roger Federer, 33, plays 23-year-old Canadian Milos Raonic.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia, the world No. 1, starts his London campaign tomorrow against Cilic while Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka plays Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.

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