Murray off to perfect start against Soderling
Originally published on: 21/11/10 16:47
Murray, who slipped behind Soderling to No.5 in the ATP rankings in the week running up to the season finale, produced a first-set masterclass in tactical tennis, mixing pace, spin and placement with ease and making the Swede look decidedly second best.
“Tactically it was a great match,” said Murray. “I think I played very smart tennis today. Even when it was getting tough in the second set, a lot of long rallies, I stuck to my tactics well and managed to come through.”
Murray admitted afterwards that he had paid the price for dropping sets in the group stages last year, when he was eliminated by a single game as Juan Martin del Potro advanced with Roger Federer. Seeking to make amends, the Scot shot out of the blocks against Soderling, reaching break point in the third game of the match with two deft passing shots before converting with a third, a cross-court backhand that left the world No.4 no chance.
Soderling, a semi-finalist at last year’s event, had been expected to take the game to Murray on his favourite surface. He arrived in London on the back of 20 wins from 24 indoor matches this season, most notably victory at the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris-Bercy.
But Soderling was a passenger as Murray threatened to race away with the match, breaking once more in game seven and serving out in style, an ace – one of ten in the match – and a deft drop shot securing the set.
Things were a little more evenly matched in the second, as Soderling stepped up and began unleashing the fearsome ground strokes that have seen him become the highest-ranked Swede since his coach Magnus Norman reached no.4 in the world in 2000.
Having enjoyed the freedom to attack at will in the first set, Murray now found himself in a dogfight, defending from deep within the court and at times fortunate that Soderling couldn’t buy a volley when he did venture to the net.
The set hinged on game six as Soderling brought up his first break point of the match, saved with an ace by Murray. A string of cat-and-mouse rallies followed before the home favourite, raucously backed by the packed O2 Arena, clinched the game.
As so often happens following the disappointment of an opportunity missed, Soderling’s level dipped and once more he found himself 0-40 down courtesy of another cross-court forehand pass from Murray. The Swede saved the first break point but double-faulted on the second to hand Murray a 4-3 lead.
That proved to be enough for the Scot, who served out with little fuss to wrap up a confidence-boosting straight-sets victory.
“I wasn’t really there,” conceded Soderling. “The last couple of weeks have been really tough for me: I played a lot of matches, I dealt with some stomach problems.
“All credit to him because he really played well today,” he added. “He served really well, he was defending really well. I was hitting the ball pretty hard sometimes, trying to be aggressive. Every time I came to the net, he came up with a really good shot. The good thing is I still have a chance.”
In the day’s opening match, the Bryan brothers got the defence of their ATP World Tour Finals crown off to a solid start with a 6-3 7-5 victory over Wimbledon champions Jurgen Melzer and Philipp Petzschner.