By Alexandra Willis at the O2 Arena
23 November 2010
It proved to be a battle of who could get their first serve in the least as Andy Murray and Roger Federer came head to head for the fourteenth time in their careers at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals on the banks of the river Thames. Meeting under the O2’s domed roof at exactly the same stage as they faced off last year, the world No.2 and world No.5 entered the court to a fevered reception, boosted by a considerable gathering of Swiss fans.
As is customary when these two meet, the build-up featured another round of verbal volleys, the Brit praising his opponent and vowing to do his best, the Swiss reminding us which one of the pair has 16 Grand Slams to his name. But with Murray looking the fresher and sharper in his opening match against Robin Soderling on Sunday, while Federer suffered lapses of concentration against David Ferrer, heads and hearts decreed that it would be Murray’s chance to extend his number of wins over the former world No.1 to nine.
Federer had other ideas. Although both players seemed scrappy in the opening interchanges, it was the Swiss who twisted the lack of rhythm to his advantage, creating an immediate break point opportunity, and seizing Murray’s serve off him in the third game. As Murray’s former coach Brad Gilbert had identified in the build-up, two statistics proved key – Murray’s first-serve percentage, which barely registered above the 40% mark throughout the match, and the effectiveness of Federer’s second serve. Although the world No.2’s first delivery was also far from its best, the height and spin off his second serve played tricks with the Scot’s usually reliable returning, giving him 75% of points off his second serve, and the Swiss served out the first set 6-4 in 43 minutes.
With Murray flickering but failing to fire, Federer was free to hop and skip around the court, breaking the Brit twice to lead 4-0 in the second set, and see out the match 6-4, 6-2 after an hour and 16 minutes.
“I returned poorly and I served poorly, and against a guy like Roger, that’s not going to win the match,” Murray said afterwards. “It’s disappointing. I feel like I’m hitting the ball fine from the back of the court, but when you’re serving at 30% it’s tough to make an impact. I did the two most important things in tennis – serve and return – very badly today. That’s got to improve. I have to try and use my weapons in the next match.”
The duo’s head to head now stands at Murray 8 – 6 Federer after today’s result. Murray will meet Spaniard David Ferrer in his final round-robin match at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals on Thursday.
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