Valencia Open: Murray breaks heroic Robredo effort in title match again

Andy Murray beats Tommy Robredo in gruelling three-setter to win the Valencia Open title

Anyone but the most stone-hearted tennis fan must feel nothing but sympathy for Tommy Robredo.

Last month, in the first week of the Asian swing, the elegant 32-year-old Spaniard played his heart out against Andy Murray in the final of the Shenzhen Open. He led by a set and 6-2 in the second set tie-breaker only to see Murray save all four match points—and one more for good measure—in some of the most gruelling conditions of the year.

Murray would go on to win the match, 6-1, in the third set after a modest two and a half hours—modest, because a month later, the two would face one another in a second final, this time the ATP 500 in Valencia.

Like Shenzhen, Murray took a wild card in an attempt to boost his points in his campaign to qualify for the World Tour Finals. And like the Chinese tournament, these two were the last left standing on finals day.

Also like their last meeting, Robredo went a set up, and then pulled back a break in the second set to level at 4-4. This too would go to a tie-break. This too would bring up match points for Roberdo. This too would see Murray dig deep at the critical moments to deny the Spaniard.

Murray levelled the match, but this was by no means over. Robredo continued to attack and broke to love to lead 4-3 in the third, but the resilient and determined Murray broke straight back, but failed to convert a match-point in the 10th game.

Robredo again took the initial lead in the ensuing tie-break and went on to earn three more match points. But Murray would not acquiesce, and finally, after 3hrs 20mins—the longest best-of-three-set final of the year—edged the match 3-6, 7-6(7), 7-6(8).

This was Murray’s 20th match since the start of Shenzhen and he has lost just two of them to claim three titles: Shenzhen, Vienna and now Valencia. And the effort has paid off in spades: The Briton has surged to No5 in the race to London, 30 points ahead of US Open finalist, Kei Nishikori.

For Robredo, though, it was a heart-breaking conclusion: for the second time in a month he had five championship points and ended up with the runner’s-up trophy.

They collapsed over each other’s shoulders at the net, both knowing they had been part of something special.

Robredo, who like Murray has made a strong return to the tour from injury—leg surgery in 2012 and wrist injury at the end of 2013—could not have been more gracious in the face of such disappointment: “It was an amazing match, and you have to enjoy it. Unfortunately someone has to win and it was decided by a few balls. It is what it is.

“Now I will be a bit out for a couple of hours but I guess that when I finish the season next week, and I watch today’s match against one of the best players we have right now, I will be very happy.”

There was some consolation this week for Robredo. He reached his 500th tour-level match-win in reaching the final by beating Jeremy Chardy. And even more impressive in the context of the final, he had come from behind in both sets to win 7-6(7), 7-6(2) in a match of just over two hours.

Of his landmark, Robredo said: “It is only a number, but it is a special number. If somebody told me I would win 500 matches at the beginning of my career, I’d take it. Well, I’m here. Now I should go for 600!”

That is just what his compatriot, fellow evergreen 30-something David Ferrer, has done, reaching his 600th also in front of his home crowd this week. Perhaps, though, there is something inauspicious about big numbers on home territory: Ferrer also lost to Murray in his very next match.

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