Murray scrapes past Raonic
Originally published on 19/11/16 00:00
In a match lasting three hours and 38 minutes – the longest match in ATP Finals history – Murray battled from a set and a break down to win 5-7 7-6(5) 7-6(9) to claim his 23rd consecutive victory – a winning streak stretching back to the Davis Cup semi-finals in September.
The win also keeps Murray ahead of Novak Djokovic in the race to end the season as world No.1. It was Raonic’s withdrawal from their semi-final clash in Paris earlier this month that secured Murray’s ascent to the top of the world rankings, and the Canadian came within a point of potentially bringing Murray’s reign to an end after just two weeks.
After a positive start – winning his first two service games to love – it was Murray who came under pressure first, having to save three break points to stave off the No.4 seed. But Raonic was finally rewarded for his early pressure before converting his third set point to take the opener, having dropped just seven points on serve.
Murray’s error count began to creep up – particularly off his forehand – he squandered two early break points in the second, before Raonic broke for a 2-1 lead.
The Canadian was a set and a break up against Murray in the Aegon Championships final in June before Murray roared back to win in three, and it felt like déjà vu when Murray won the next eight points to break straight back and lead 3-2.
However, Raonic did not crack, serving well under pressure to stave off any further breaks, although the 80-minute second set eventually went Murray’s way after a scintillating tiebreak.
With both players starting to fatigue, there were four breaks of serve in the final four games as Murray twice served for the match, only for Raonic to break straight back.
In a tense final tiebreak, Murray saw three match points pass him by – saving one of Raonic's, before finally converting on his fourth match point to book his place in Sunday’s final.
“It was obviously unbelievable tough; I had to fight very, very hard to get over the line,” said Murray. “It was tough to go into the tiebreak having been broken twice serving for the match but I played some great points and managed to get the break at the end.
"I didn't expect to play a long one with someone with a serve like Milos. I'm tired. I've played so much tennis over the last few months. I'll give it my best effort – the best of what I have."