Highlights from the fifth day of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at London's O2 Arena...
Djokovic ups the ante
Novak Djokovic may be the year-end world No.1, but there is a swirling debate about who really is the men's player of the year. The four Grand Slams have been shared equally among the big four, and Djokovic's Australian Open triumph being the furthest away in memory, it stands to reason that the Serb is not the first thought of. But his run to the US Open final and subsequent triumph over Andy Murray in the Shanghai Masters final proves that he has had life in his legs towards the latter part of this season. And it seems like those legs want to carry him to a second victory in the year-end event.
The manner in which Djokovic took apart Tomas Berdych in the first set of his final round robin match certainly corroborated that. Berdych was given no quarter, no space to effect his thumping serve or forehand, while Djokovic scampered around the court as if he was part of a Cirque de Soleil troupe. The cap-wearing Czech made life considerably tougher in the second set, hanging tough with the Serb to force a tie-break. But, as world No.1s do, Djokovic upped the ante, saving three set points, to get himself over the finish line, 6-2, 7-6(6).
“I just try to have a simple thinking, fight every point that I have,” Djokovic said. “Guess it works sometimes. Sometimes it doesn't work. I'm glad it worked today.”
The world No.1 finishes the round robin proceedings atop Group A with three wins out of three.
“I played a lot of matches this year, but for the first time I won all three in my group,” he said. “This is very encouraging for me, so I will try to focus on the semi-final now.”
Murray hangs tough
Two years ago, Andy Murray had a scenario where he needed to win one set against David Ferrer to reach the semi-finals of the season-ending finale. Easy peasy, you might think. But the added pressure of the permutation clearly affected the home hero, and he looked as nervous as if it were a Grand Slam final. Friday brought about a similar situation. Once Novak Djokovic had won in straight sets, Murray needed just one set against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to make it into the last two. And, once again, Murray looked extremely on edge. But once he started playing tennis, all the nerves fell away. Dubbed by Annabel Croft as one of the best sets of tennis she has seen Murray play, the Scot scorched through it 6-2 in just over half an hour to assure his place in the final four, having taken a 4-0 lead in 20 minutes.
It looked like it would be an early Eurostar ticket for Tsonga as Murray opened the second set with a break. But the French powerhouse fought back, breaking Murray at 3-4, and forcing the Scot to serve to stay in the set.
"I'm somebody who never give up," Tsonga said. "So sometimes you are not playing a good tennis, and you keep fighting, you keep believing in you, and then it comes better and better."
The pressure firmly on Murray, the Frenchman had a set point, but fired his off-forehand wide by a fraction. It was all that Murray needed. Taking a 4-2 lead in the tie-break, Murray completed the straight sets win 6-2, 7-6(3) with an ace.
His opponent in the semis is likely to be Roger Federer in what will be a blockbuster match on Sunday.
" "I think over the years, I got used to playing those guys a couple of times in a week," Murray said. "Also with Rafa, as well. It's happened quite a few times. It's not something that I'm afraid of. I know it's incredibly difficult and challenging to beat guys like that back to back, but it's doable. But you're obviously going to have to play great tennis to do that, and I'm aware of that."
And in the doubles...
Thrice-beaten Wimbledon finalists Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau got revenge on their SW19 conquerors Jonny Marray and Freddie Nielsen in two tight sets 6-3, 7-5 which also marked the end of their three-year partnership on the tour. "We have known for a while it would be our last match and after three years together we wanted to end on good terms with a good tournament," Tecau said. "In the last two losses, we played well but didn’t finish it off. We are really happy to have come out with a win today."
Marray and Nielsen meanwhile are into the semi-finals courtesy of their two wins earlier in the week.
They will be joined in the last four by Indian duo Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna who produced a thrilling 7-6(5), 6-7(5), 10-5 win over defending champions Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor.
“When we are playing a team as good as Daniel and Max you have to bring the goods,” Bhupathi said. “We were down a few break points and came up with some big serves. Luckily we were able to keep the momentum with big serving through the match.”
Coming up on Saturday
The last of the round-robin matches...
Bob & Mike Bryan v Radek Stepanek & Leander Paes
A re-match of this year's Australian Open final. Paes and Stepanek are already through to the semi-finals, but the Bryans need to win one set to assure their place.
Roger Federer v Juan Martin Del Potro
With just the one semi-final spot remaining, Del Potro needs to beat Federer to make it through. He will be boosted by the fact that he beat the Swiss in the Basle final a few weeks ago.
Marcel Granollers & Marc Lopez v Jean-Julien Rojer & Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi
The Spanish debutantes need two sets to make it into the last four while Rojer and Qureshi will be seeking a first win of the week.
David Ferrer v Janko Tipsarevic
Tipsarevic has been well below par this tournament, suffering from illness and fatigue, so Ferrer will fancy his chances of completing a second win and assuring his place in the final four.
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