LONDON, November 9 2014: Even-numbered years have been good to Andy Murray at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. A semi-finalist in 2008, â€˜10 and â€˜12, if the Scot is to continue the trend this week, a strong finish on home soil will be necessary.
Murray suffered just his fourth defeat in 21 matches since the US Open on Sunday, succumbing to season finale debutant Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-4 at The O2 in London. The 27 year old understands thereâ€™s still a chance to progress out of Group B, but it wonâ€™t be easy.
â€œIt’s harder to qualify when you lose your first match. That’s pretty obvious. But unlike the other events, you still have a chance to go through. If this were anywhere else, I would be out of the tournament. You need to try to forget about today, work on some things tomorrow, and hopefully play better on Tuesday.
â€œNow I need to win my next two matches more than likely and win them well if I want to go through. That’s going to be tricky because Milos obviously played fantastic last week in Paris, and Roger always plays well at this event. So I’m definitely going to have to play better if I want to get through.â€
The Dunblane native had nothing but praise for Nishikoriâ€™s performance, lauding the Japanese young gun for his rapid progression in 2014 and ascent to the pinnacle of the game. Murray stressed that the talent was always there and now the belief in his abilities has followed suit.
â€œI think he hasn’t made big changes to technique or any of his shots particularly, but he’s playing with more confidence. Because of that, he’s able to take more chances and be a little bit more aggressive than he was previously.
â€œBut he’s always been a tough guy to play against because from the back of the court. He’s able to take the ball early. He can change direction of the ball. He’s got a lot of talent in his hand. Even when you get the ball in difficult spots on the court, he’s a good shot maker. He’s always been able to do that. With the confidence, he’s a bit more consistent throughout the course of the match, as well.â€
Murray has two remaining Group B clashes, against six-time champion Roger Federer and a fifth FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting with Milos Raonic. On the heels of a dominant September and October in the Emirates ATP Race To London, he acknowledges that the process has been slow in his return from back surgery a year ago, but positive results are coming.
â€œI feel like I’ve played well for most of the events since (Roland Garros) really. I’ve had fairly consistent, decent results. But to beat the top players consistently, you need to be playing at your top level all the time or close to it. At the beginning of the year it was hard, because before I had my surgery, I was consistently there. When you come back and you aren’t quite there, that’s obviously frustrating.
â€œOver time you get used to that, and mentally you start to understand why that might happen. You deal with it. I think it’s been a fairly normal process. It’s not been anything out of the ordinary, but something that I’ve had to learn a lot this year about what that’s like. I’m sure I’ll be good next year.â€