(November 16, 2016) World No. 1 Andy Murray survived a three-hour and twenty-minute struggle against Kei Nishikori to win 6-7 (9), 6-4, 6-4 to go 2-0 in round robin play at the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena on Wednesday.
The match set an ATP World Tour Finals record as the longest three-set match in time.
Murray is in the top position in his group to qualify for the semifinals of the year-end event for the first time since 2012. This is the first time since 2009 that the Scot has won his first two matches at the event.
Murray has won 21 straight matches.
“Especially the first set, beginning part of the second set, he was dictating almost all of the rallies,” said Murray. “At one stage they put up the graphic on the screen in the first set, said I made 96% of returns, which at that stage means maybe I missed one. There wasn’t any quick points on his serve. There was a lot of rallies one after another.
“Often on a surface like this, you’ll play some quicker points where you maybe get aced or don’t make returns. But it was kind of every point there was rallies, and you’re having to play four, five shots.
“It’s tough. Like you say, he does move the ball around extremely well, better than anyone maybe. So, yeah, it was physically tough. Thankfully I was getting quite a few free points on my own serve, which helped.
“It wasn’t easy because I wasn’t able to dictate many of the points, it felt. More so in the third set I was able to. But not in the first couple sets. I was having to run, fight, get as many balls back as I could.”
“Well, it’s never feel good, you know, after losing the match,” Nishikori said. “I know it was close. I mean, definitely disappointed. But there’s much is coming into this, so try to be ready for that.”
“He’s tough player, so… Think it was great match, both of us. Also for me, played really consistent, playing with good energy.
“Well, I’m sure he’s going to qualify for the group. I try to aim for the second spot.”
It could all come down to a battle for year-end No. 1 against Novak Djokovic later in the tournament
“It could come down to a match between me and Novak,” Murray said. “Who knows what’s going to happen the next few days. Just from my side, concentrate on trying to win my own matches, get through as many as I can, make it as tough as possible for Novak to jump me.”
Gael Monfils has withdrawn from the year-end event with an 0-2 group record. He’s still suffering from a rib injury he’s had since the Stockholm event.
“Definitely I can’t play for tomorrow because I still feel worse and worse, my ribs, that I had lately,” Monfils said in a news conference. “Yeah, I feel that even yesterday was tough in the game. I feel unfortunately today I couldn’t be feeling great and couldn’t practice, so I just decide that I couldn’t play tomorrow.”
“I hurt myself in Stockholm tournament. From then, you know, I just start to practice last Monday.
“You know, I knew it’s going to be six weeks, they told me, of rest. I try to make it. I couldn’t really make it.”
“I’m very happy first to be here in the top eight. I think it’s the greatest season I ever done. I can say also I missed quite a lot. Big occasion to play.
“It give me more hope for next year. Definitely, I had a lot of big change for me. I think for the new season I will have new changes and hopefully I can be even stronger next year.”