ATP World Tour Finals 2012: Murray Stumbles to Berdych Win
By Nick Howson | November 6, 2012 3:34 AM EST
Andy Murray might possess a decent tennis relationship with the city of London, following his record-breaking heroics at Wimbledon and the Olympia Games this summer, but his association with the ATP World Tour Finals is still to ignite despite a three-set victory over Tomas Berdych on day one.
Successive round-robin exits in the past two years at the O2 Arena, following a semi-final appearance in 2009 during the event's debut in Greenwich, represents Murray's best showing at the season's ending tournament.
While home pressure has always been blamed for British players' failure at the All-England Club, Murray has often prefered to ostracize himself from the public glare, and instead it's the event's format, which allows no player the opportunity to get the feel for the court, instead works to undermine the Scot's campaign.
And against world No.6 Berdych, among the planet's most improved players in 2012, Murray again appeared to feel the affects of the intensity of an opponent who ran him all-so close in the blustery conditions at Flushing Meadows.
The Czech can consider himself unfortunate not to have reached the US Open final, but in an altogether different setting, had the opportunity to damage the Murray armory.
The opening set suggested Berdych was adapting to the indoor surface at the O2 Arena much the better. While the British No.1 looked uncomfortable in his own skin, Berdych was playing like he was surfing on a wave as the home favorite.
As so often is the way when the chips are down, Murray looked helpless when attacking break points, and then fallible on the back foot and Berydch took full advantage in the first set, winning 13 points from 15 as he turned facing two break points into 5-2 lead.
A solemn call from the crowd of 'come on Olympic Champion' struck an poignant note as Berdych served out the opening set, with Murray's performance far removed from the lofty status London 2012 gold had propelled him to.
Seven break points wasted in the first set, and two more in the opening game of the second suggested Murray was facing the ignominy of a defeat in a match which had been thrust from his clutches.
In game four, the first crack in the Berdych rearguard appeared and Murray took full advantage, prizing away the initiative with his 11th break point. The remainder of the set went without alarm, and suddenly Murray had a foothold.
His grip tightened significantly in the third game of the deciding set, Berdych netting a poor backhand volley, and Murray, by virtue of a flawless service performance, converted his initiative into an advantage he wouldn't relinquish.
If Berdych represented a tough warm-up for Murray, then Novak Djokovic, potentially on Wednesday, will be the acid test for his hopes this week. The pair are set to play-out tennis' next great rivalry; that's assured, but whether the contest will be a pre-curser to a meeting in the final next Monday is still to be decided.
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