ATP World Tour Finals 2011: Injured Murray falls to Ferrer
Injury stricken Andy Murray suffers 6-4 7-5 defeat by David Ferrer in his opening match of the World Tour Finals
Just how prophetic Andy Murray’s words were when he began his campaign to win the biggest title of his career in London, few could have predicted.
He was asked for his thoughts on the group in which he found himself for the Round Robin matches of the World Tour Finals, and about David Ferrer in particular.
His answer was as you would expect: respectful and pragmatic. The eight men who have made it to London are, after all, the best in the world, and none of them provide an easy ride.
But when he was asked about Ferrer, Murray was fresh off straight wins in straight tournaments in straight sets against the Spaniard: the semi-finals of Tokyo and the final of the Shanghai Masters.
He also beat Ferrer in their only other 2011 meeting, again in straight sets, again on hard courts, at the Australian Open.
“I’ve matched up well against him on the hard courts but he’s also made the
WTFs indoors on hard courts before. I’ve played well against him in the past but that’s because I’ve needed to.”
And indeed, Ferrer is not a man to underestimate. After all, the Spaniard is enjoying one of his finest seasons in more than three years, with two titles from six finals. But Murray has the second best indoor record of all the men in London and, more pertinently, he had never lost to Ferrer on hard courts. The prophetic comment?
“So if I don’t play well, then it’s going to be a tough one.”
And come the opening match of Group A, Murray did not play well, and it was a tough one. What no-one knew, and what came to light after his surprise straight sets loss, was that Murray had been carrying a groin injury for a fortnight””something picked up in post-Paris training.
It is a serious enough problem that he admitted would have kept him away from any tournament other than a Grand Slam or this tour-ending finale.
“I haven’t been able to do too much training this week. I played but didn’t feel particularly great.” And asked about his chance of continuing the tournament, it was gloomy news: “I don’t know. I’ll just see tomorrow how I feel.”
How he felt was writ large on his face””downcast, pale, wanting to be anywhere but here, though he went on to face radio, TV and later the rigours of ice, perhaps even acupuncture.
So what of the 29-year-old who, much like the other elder statesman in London, Roger Federer, rarely seems to succumb to injury?
Even before they began to play, Ferrer had a busyness. He exudes pent-up energy even when it is applied to fetching water, sorting his bag, adjusting his shirt, dabbing his face. On this occasion, the pent-up Spaniard struggled to keep things under control in the early stages and Murray gained a quick break in the third game.
But both men were taking time to find their range and rhythm, in an echo of both matches on the opening day. The lighting, the speed of the court, the sound, the scale””all seemed to take some adjustment. A combination of erratic serving from Murray and hustling by Ferrer forced more errors from the Scot’s racket and Ferrer raced into the net to take the break back.
It looked, briefly, as though Murray had twinged a leg muscle but he shook it off and the set stayed on serve. They continued to slice and dice””both are consummate defenders and retrievers, and that made for some nail-biting rallies””but Ferrer scampered and chased the better. It was only later that the reason became clear.
Ferrer broke Murray again at the key moment, the 10th game, to take the set 6-4. Alarm bells started to ring for an O2 packed with Murray supporters. He called a medical time out for treatment to his groin. Nevertheless, he opened the second set with a break of the Ferrer serve and led 2-0 before, once more, Ferrer went on the offensive.
Now with 34 unforced errors apiece, they broke one another again and advanced to 5-5. Once more, Murray was left to serve to stay in the set but Ferrer, now stepping inside the baseline on almost every Murray serve, forced the Scot’s error count ever upwards, to 44 by the end of the match.
Ferrer pounced into the net for a courageous volley put-away that caught the back corner. A point later and the set was his, 7-5, together with his first hard-court victory over Murray.
He admitted that it was emotional, especially against a friend and especially in front of that friend’s home crowd: “I beat Andy in London, in his home, that is very difficult. Last year I lost all the matches, and this year I win my first match in London. I think this tournament is very, very special.”
Ferrer knows he now has to play both Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych, and this win, his 57th of the season, will be a shot in the arm to his self-belief, despite the circumstances.
For now, however, those other two men do not know whether they will have to face Murray or the first reserve, Janko Tipsarevic, later this week. It makes a difference. Berdych has beaten Murray in their last three matches, but has lost four times to Tipsarevic. Meanwhile, Djokovic has never lost to compatriot Tipsarevic but lost to Murray in Cincinnati.
These are nervous days for all concerned.