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Updated: 6 min 43 sec ago

Raonic, Thiem Battle For Semi-Final Berth In London

Thu, 11/17/2016 - 2:13am
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The winner of Thursday's match at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals between Austria's Dominic Thiem and Canada's Milos Raonic will qualify for Saturday's semi-finals as the runner-up in Group Ivan Lendl

Thiem is the youngest man to win a singles match at The O2 since 2009. Any young Austrian tennis player will find himself toiling in the long alpine shadow of Thomas Muster, a former World No. 1. And yet it's perfectly possible that Thiem, a debutant at the season finale, could today out-perform Muster by qualifying for the semi-finals. For all his other achievements, ‘The Iron Man of Tennis’ never did that.  

"A star is born - big hug," Jose Mourinho wrote on the back of his VIP pass to the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, which he gave to Thiem backstage on Sunday. Manchester United's manager, who likes his tennis, appreciated the quality of Thiem's play on that opening afternoon, with the 23-year-old snaffling a tie-break 12-10 against Novak Djokovic before losing in three sets. And there was another significant moment for Thiem on Tuesday when he registered his first victory at the tournament with a three-set win over Gael Monfils, so becoming the youngest man to win a singles match at the event since 2009.  

Thiem has already played a lot of tennis at The O2 this week - six sets so far – just as he has played a lot of tennis this season. In a busy year, Thiem has won four titles, which is more than anyone else apart from Andy Murray (8) and Djokovic (7). Raonic, who pushed Djokovic to two tie-breaks on Tuesday evening, has a record in London to maintain. After finishing as the runner-up at The Queen's Club this year, and also playing for the title at Wimbledon – on both occasions he was rebuffed by Murray - can he go on to reach a third final of the season in London? 

Defending champion Novak Djokovic, who has won all four of his previous matches against David Goffin, meets the Belgian alternate in Group Ivan Lendl this afternoon. 

Djokovic has Inspector Gadget-like reach and legs that are seemingly made of rubber. Any time he performs the splits on a hard court - as he just might today - there should really be a public health warning: "Don't try this at home."

Watching Djokovic, you'll be reminded of how far tennis has travelled since its beginnings in 19th-century tea parties on vicars' lawns. Or, indeed, how far it has travelled since the 1980s, the decade being celebrated at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals this week. 

Here's something else to admire - Djokovic's run at this season finale, with the Serbian attempting to win the tournament for a fifth successive year and for a record-equalling sixth time overall, which would bring him parity with Roger Federer. But Djokovic hasn't had it easy so far at The O2 this November – he lost a 12-10 tie-break to Dominic Thiem on Sunday before winning in three sets, and he fended off Milos Raonic on Tuesday in a couple of tie-breaks. Even so, Djokovic maintained his unbeaten record against both those opponents. 

Djokovic was supposed to be playing Gael Monfils, a Frenchman he has conquered in all 13 meetings, in this afternoon's singles match. But with Monfils, who had lost his opening two matches, withdrawing from the tournament last night because of a worsening rib injury, Djokovic's opposition will instead be Goffin. And even with that change, Djokovic goes into another Group Ivan Lendl match looking to preserve his 'perfect' record against that day's opponent as he leads the alternate 4-0 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head. The last of Djokovic's victories over Goffin, the World No. 11, came this year at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Miami. 

DAY 5 PREVIEW

While four-time reigning Barclays ATP World Tour Finals champion Novak Djokovic has already locked up a spot in the semi-finals by winning Group Ivan Lendl, the two youngest players in this year’s field, Milos Raonic (25) and Dominic Thiem (23), battle it out Thursday with the winner going on to the final four.

In the opening singles match, Djokovic brings a 4-0 career FedEx ATP Head 2 Head record against alternate David Goffin, who replaced Gael Monfils. The Frenchman withdrew on Wednesday with a rib injury. The 25-year-old Belgian has put together his best season and he will finish a year-end high No. 11 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. His best result was a runner-up in Tokyo last month (l. to Kyrgios). He also advanced to four semi-finals, including back-to-back ATP Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami. He is trying to become the first alternate to win a match since Janko Tipsarevic (d. Djokovic) in 2011. Djokovic won the last meeting 76 64 on Apr. 1 in the semi-finals at Miami. Djokovic, who advanced to the season finale semi-finals for the fifth straight year (and seventh overall) with his 76 76 win over Raonic on Tuesday, has earned 400 Emirates ATP Ranking points so far.  He will have 11,380 points on the season if he beats Goffin. Andy Murray has 11,310 points after his 3h, 20m victory over Kei Nishikori on Wednesday. Djokovic has won 20 of his past 21 matches at The O2 since 2012 with his only loss coming to Federer last year in the second round robin match. Djokovic is attempting to finish group play undefeated (3-0) for the fourth time in the past five years.

In the evening session, Raonic and Thiem square off for the second time. In their previous meeting in the quarter-finals at ATP Masters 1000 Cincinnati on Aug. 19, Raonic won 63 64. Both players are 1-1 this week in Group Ivan Lendl, defeating Monfils and losing to Djokovic. The winner of this match will mark a historic first singles semi-final appearance from Canada or Austria in the ATP Finals (since 1970). Raonic is trying to reach his ninth semi-final of the season while Thiem is attempting to advance to his 11th semi-final. If he beats Raonic, Thiem would be the youngest semi-finalist at the season finale since Juan Martin del Potro (21) reached the final in 2009 (l. to Davydenko). Raonic and Nishikori are chasing current No. 3 Wawrinka to finish No. 3 in the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time. Wawrinka has 5,315 points and leads Raonic (5,250) and Nishikori (4,905).

Group Ivan Lendl Semi-finals Qualification Scenarios (Thursday)

  • Djokovic has already won group
  • Raonic-Thiem winner will qualify in second place

Group Edberg/Jarryd play concludes with all four teams in semi-final contention (see scenarios on next page). No. 2 seeds Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares are one win away from overtaking current No. 1 Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, who hold a 175-point lead in the Emirates ATP Doubles Team Rankings. If Murray/Soares defeat No. 6 Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo, they will reach the semi-finals and surpass Herbert/Mahut by 25 points. The Frenchmen are 0-2 in round robin play and they could earn 200 points with a win on Friday. In the first doubles match, four-time ATP Finals champions Bob and Mike Bryan take a 2-0 head-to-head record against No. 8 Treat Huey and Max Mirnyi. The Bryans are trying to reach the semi-finals for the fourth straight year and 11th time in 14 appearances. Mahut will clinch year-end No. 1 in the individual Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings if he wins on Friday or Murray/Soares lose a match. No Frenchman has ever finished a season as World No. 1 in singles or doubles.

Group Edberg/Jarryd Semi-finals Qualification Scenarios (Thursday)

  • Regardless of score, if J. MURRAY / B. SOARES defeat I. DODIG / M. MELO and B. BRYAN / M. BRYAN defeat T. HUEY / M. MIRNYI, then J. MURRAY / B. SOARES win the group and B. BRYAN / M. BRYAN qualify 2nd.
  • Regardless of score, if I. DODIG / M. MELO defeat J. MURRAY / B. SOARES and T. HUEY / M. MIRNYI defeat B. BRYAN / M. BRYAN, then I. DODIG / M. MELO win the group and J. MURRAY / B. SOARES qualify 2nd.
  • If J. MURRAY / B. SOARES defeat I. DODIG / M. MELO in 2 sets and T. HUEY / M. MIRNYI defeat B. BRYAN / M. BRYAN in 2 sets, then J. MURRAY / B. SOARES win the group and order of remaining teams is determined by % of games won.
  • 4) If J. MURRAY / B. SOARES defeat I. DODIG / M. MELO in 2 sets and T. HUEY / M. MIRNYI defeat B. BRYAN / M. BRYAN in 3 sets, then J. MURRAY / B. SOARES win the group and B. BRYAN / M. BRYAN qualify 2nd.
  • 5) If J. MURRAY / B. SOARES defeat I. DODIG / M. MELO in 3 sets and T. HUEY / M. MIRNYI defeat B. BRYAN / M. BRYAN in 2 sets, then J. MURRAY / B. SOARES win the group and I. DODIG / M. MELO qualify 2nd.
  • If J. MURRAY / B. SOARES defeat I. DODIG / M. MELO in 3 sets and T. HUEY / M. MIRNYI defeat B. BRYAN / M. BRYAN in 3 sets, then J. MURRAY / B. SOARES win the group and B. BRYAN / M. BRYAN qualify 2nd.
  • If I. DODIG / M. MELO defeat J. MURRAY / B. SOARES in 2 sets and B. BRYAN / M. BRYAN defeat T. HUEY / M. MIRNYI in 2 sets, then T. HUEY / M. MIRNYI are eliminated and order of remaining teams is determined by % of games won.
  • If DODIG / M. MELO defeat J. MURRAY / B. SOARES in 2 sets and B. BRYAN / M. BRYAN defeat T. HUEY / M. MIRNYI in 3 sets, then I. DODIG / M. MELO win the group and J. MURRAY / B. SOARES qualify 2nd.
  • If I. DODIG / M. MELO defeat J. MURRAY / B. SOARES in 3 sets and B. BRYAN / M. BRYAN defeat T. HUEY / M. MIRNYI in 2 sets, then J. MURRAY / B. SOARES win the group and B. BRYAN / M. BRYAN qualify 2nd.
  • If I. DODIG / M. MELO defeat J. MURRAY / B. SOARES in 3 sets and B. BRYAN / M. BRYAN defeat T. HUEY / M. MIRNYI in 3 sets, then J. MURRAY / B. SOARES win the group and B. BRYAN / M. BRYAN qualify 2nd.

The Battle For No. 1, With Just Days To Go

Thu, 11/17/2016 - 1:19am
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Note: Story updated after Novak Djokovic's straight-sets win over David Goffin Thursday.

Who is going to finish the year No. 1? More than half-way through the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, we’re not much closer to an answer.

Neither Andy Murray nor Novak Djokovic is giving each other an inch in the battle to finish No. 1 in the year-end Emirates ATP Rankings. Both remain undefeated in round-robin play, with Djokovic already booking his spot in the semi-finals after a perfect 3-0 record over the first five days. Having played one more match than Murray, Djokovic is effectively 70 points ahead of the Scot. But if Murray picks up 200 points by winning his final round-robin match Friday against Stan Wawrinka to also move to 3-0, he will enter the semi-finals with a 130-point lead in the battle for No. 1.

On paper, Murray came into the tournament 405 points ahead of Djokovic, but the Scot will see the 275 points he earned in the 2015 Davis Cup final fall from his points total on 28 November, the day the year-end rankings are calculated. So, that effectively gave Murray a 130-point lead coming into the finale.

Murray needs to win one set against Wawrinka Friday to be guaranteed a semi-final berth. Should he lose in straight sets to Wawrinka and (based on possible results in the group match between Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic) fail to reach the semi-finals, Djokovic would end the year No. 1.

Should Murray join Djokovic in the semi-finals, here are the key scenarios…

  • If Murray and Djokovic meet in SFs, the winner of that match will clinch No. 1
  • If they don’t meet in SFs, the player advancing farthest in the tournament will clinch No. 1
  • If they both lose in the semi-finals, Murray will clinch No. 1 unless Djokovic has a better round-robin record

Murray is looking to become the 17th man in history (since 1973) to finish as the year-end No. 1. Djokovic is looking to finish No. 1 for the third consecutive year, and for the fifth time overall.

Murray became World No. 1 for the first time in his career on 7 November. The last time a No. 2 dethroned the incumbent No. 1 at the season finale to claim the year-end No. 1 title was back in 2001, when Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt overtook Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten in Sydney. Never in history has the final at the season finale determined the year-end No. 1.

For each group-stage match win at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, players earn 200 points. A semi-final win means an additional 400 points and a win in the final brings a further 500 points.

Wawrinka Keeps Title Charge In Tact on Day 4 Highlights

Thu, 11/17/2016 - 1:06am
Watch highlights from the fourth day of action at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. Stan Wawrinka fended off a spirited effort from Marin Cilic to gain an opening victory. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com. Photo: Peter Staples / ATP World Tour

Daily Snapshot: London Day Four

Thu, 11/17/2016 - 12:47am
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Missed a moment of the action from Wednesday at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals? Here’s your executive summary

1) Murray Prevails In Record-Breaking Match

In a grueling battle that lasted three hours and 21 minutes, World No. 1 Andy Murray improved to 2-0 in Group John McEnroe with a 6-7(9), 6-4, 6-4 win over fifth seed Kei Nishikori. It was the longest best-of-three sets match at the year-end championships (since 1991, when records were first kept). Read Match Report

Murray’s win also means his battle with Novak Djokovic to finish the year at the top of the Emirates ATP Rankings continues to heat up. Both Murray and Djokovic can leave London as World No. 1 by winning the title. Read Battle For Year-End No. 1 Explained

2) Murray, Nishikori Produce Stunning Hot Shots Down Set Points

Both players left it all out on the court in the opening set tie-break that Nishikori ultimately prevailed in. Murray showed impressive foot speed to save a set point at 5/6, while the Japanese star saved one of his own at 8/9 with a difficult overhead smash.

3) Quote Of The Day

“I think for the tournament, for everyone interested in tennis, that would probably be the perfect way to finish the year. For me and I'm sure for Novak, both of our goals are to try and win the event. Whether that's by beating me, someone else, or for me if it's winning against Novak or another player, it doesn't change much for us.” – Murray, on whether he wants to face Djokovic in the final.

4) Stan Stays Alive

Third seed Stan Wawrinka kept himself in the hunt to advance to the semi-finals with a tight 7-6(3), 7-6(3) win over seventh seed Marin Cilic. The reigning US Open champion saved a set point in the opening set and improved his record in Group John McEnroe to 1-1. Cilic drops to 0-2. Read Match Report

5) Kontinen/Peers Advance To Semi-Finals

Fifth seeds Henri Kontinen/John Peers continued their impressive form this week, scoring a 6-3, 6-4 win over seventh seeds Raven Klaasen/Rajeev Ram. Kontinen/Peers have now won 11 of their past 13 matches. Read Match Report

Their spot in the final four was confirmed after fourth seeds Feliciano Lopez/Marc Lopez prevailed in a lengthy 7-5, 5-7, 10-8 battle over top seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert/Nicolas Mahut. Herbert/Mahut were eliminated from contention from qualifying for the semi-finals with the loss, which also means that second seeds Jamie Murray/Bruno Soares are now in total control over whether they can finish 2016 as the year-end No. 1 doubles team. Read Match Report

Mmoh Falls Down And Still Wins Point At Champaign Challenger 2016

Thu, 11/17/2016 - 12:11am
American teenager Michael Mmoh recovers from a mid-rally stumble to track down a drop shot for the decisive break against Stefan Kozlov at the Champaign Challenger.

Brain Game: Murray Prevails With Short Rallies

Thu, 11/17/2016 - 12:04am

Don’t be seduced by the long rallies.

Our eyes are naturally drawn to the drama of matches, the running, the sliding and the spectacular. Andy Murray defeated Kei Nishikori 6-7(9), 6-4, 6-4 in a grueling three hour and twenty minute slug-fest. There were plenty of twists and turns before the World No. 1 finally held serve to love to put the result to bed.

An examination of typical match metrics would have you firmly believing that it was Nishikori who took the honours. Here’s 13 areas where the Japanese star fared better, although some are linked more to stroke performance than match outcome.

Nishikori’s Advantage

1. Hit more overall winners (37-31).

2. Won more points at net (21-15).

3. Made more first serves (64% to 54%).

4. Averaged hitting his forehand harder (75mph to 70mph).

5. Averaged hitting his backhand harder (69mph to 63mph).

6. Hit more forehand winners (23-11).

7. Hit more backhand winners (8-6).

8. Hit more spin on his forehand (2673rpm to 2344rpm).

9. Hit more spin on his backhand (1827rpm to 1625rpm).

10. Ran less (3034m to 3428m).

11. Created more break point opportunities (11-7).

12. Won the 5-9 shot rally length 43-42.

13. Won the 9+ shot rally length 20-12. 

Murray's Advantage

1. The 0-4 shot rally length 76-58 (by 18 points).

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This is a new metric in our sport that is more directly tied to winning than basically anything else.  It was not the only advantage Murray had, but it was the most important. Even though there were a lot of long rallies in the match, and Murray often was forced to dig out impossible shots from a defensive position, the final breakdown of rally length was:

0-4 shot rallies: 54%

5-9 shot rallies: 33%

10+ shot rallies:13%

More: New Ranking, Same Murray

In all four Grand Slams this year, the 0-4 shot rally length was approximately 70 per cent of rallies. It’s important to note that the Murray-Nishikori match was well below that average at 54 per cent, but it was still the most dominant rally length in the match.

Murray won the bigger pool of points and lost everything else. And that's just fine for the World No. 1.

It’s fast becoming a front-line metric in our sport, with 2016 Grand Slam match winners correspondingly winning more than 90 per cent of the 0-4 shot rallies, but basically breaking even with the players they defeated in the long rallies of 10+ shots.

Murray overwhelmingly won the battle of serves and returns, while Nishikori won the battle of forehands and backhands, including speed, spin and winners. Murray won the front end, while Nishikori won the back end. The front end is simply a bigger pool to swim in.

Murray’s first serve location against Nishikori was very much in alignment with his normal patterns. In the deuce court, he hit 65 per cent of serves out wide, went down the middle T 30 per cent, and hit just two serves (five per cent) at the body. In the ad court, he went 78 per cent down the middle, 19 per cent out wide, and again hit just two serves (three per cent) at the body.

Murray won 48 per cent (30/62) of his second serve points. It doesn’t sound impressive, but it’s a good day at the office any time you can basically break even in this key metric, Nishikori could only manage to win 40 per cent of points (18/44) on second serves, including just 33 per cent (5/15) in the deciding third set.

The numbers illuminate Murray’s focus to dominate the larger pool of short points, while Nishikori’s game shone brightest in the smaller pool or longer points. Simple math will help guide you to who ultimately was the winner.

Evaluating player performance by rally length is new for us all, but it’s something that is clearly tied to winning and helps us make sense of close matches like this one.

Wawrinka Stays Alive; Up Next: Murray

Wed, 11/16/2016 - 11:49pm

Stan Wawrinka out fought Marin Cilic on Wednesday night to keep alive his chances of qualifying for the semi-finals at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

Third seed Wawrinka, who saved one set point in the first set, earned a confidence boosting 7-6(3), 7-6(3) victory over seventh seed Cilic in one hour and 58 minutes in Group John McEnroe.

"It was a great match," said Wawrinka. "I'm really happy with the way I played in general. It was a tough match, for sure - two tie-breaks. I think the level was really high… I think I was moving great. It was a great victory for me."

Wawrinka will next face top seed Andy Murray, who is 2-0 in the round-robin play and is battling Novak Djokovic to become the year-end No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. Murray leads Wawrinka 9-7 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head, with their lone meeting in 2016 coming in the Roland Garros semi-finals. Wawrinka won their round-robin clash at The O2 last year 7-6(4), 6-4.

View practice schedule & watch live stream from practice courts

"All I know is if I want to have a chance to qualify, I need to win," said Wawrinka. “That's all I'm trying to do. I'm going to try to play my best tennis, to beat the World No. 1. It's going to be a tough match. We played many times against each other. He's playing his best tennis so far. It's going to be interesting. I'm happy to play here in front of his home crowd. I'm sure it's going to be a great atmosphere.”

Chances were few in the first set, but Cilic was able to create one set point opportunity at 5-4, with Wawrinka serving at 30/40. In the tie-break, Wawrinka won six of the first eight and hit 12 winners and committed 11 unforced errors on his forehand in the 55-minute opener. Cilic won 86 per cent of his first service points.

Cilic got off to the best possible start to the second set by breaking Wawrinka to 30 in the opening game, but the Croatian’s lead was short-lived. Wawrinka began to control the baseline, forcing Cilic deeper and to play more backhand strokes. Cilic could not convert two break points in the fifth game, and was left to rue missed opportunities. In the inevitable tie-break, Wawrinka gained a 4/2 advantage and with pin-point serving calmly closed out his 11th victory in 13 meetings against Cilic.

Wawrinka has reached the semi-finals at the season finale, at The O2 in London, in each of the past three years. He improved to a 46-17 match record on the season, which includes four titles.

"In the first set, I obviously had a set point," said Cilic. "A second serve, I missed the return there. In the tie-breaks, I felt I lost a couple points that I could have won as well. Just few points that went on his side could also have gone to my side."

Cilic, now 0-2 in group play this year, will seek his first victory on the indoor court in east London against Kei Nishikori. No player in the group has done enough to qualify for the semi-finals.

Goffin Visits Barclays ATP World Tour Finals Fan Zone At The O2

Wed, 11/16/2016 - 11:22pm
Maui Jim and Peugeot ambassador David Goffin visits the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals Fan Zone at The O2 to try his luck at the Treasure Hunt in MyATP for a chance a trip to Hawaii.

Lopez/Lopez Stay Alive In London

Wed, 11/16/2016 - 9:47pm
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Fourth seeds Feliciano Lopez/Marc Lopez produced an inspired performance on Wednesday at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, scoring their first win in Group Fleming/McEnroe in a marathon match over top seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert/Nicolas Mahut, 7-5, 5-7, 10-8.

The victory by Lopez/Lopez means that fifth seeds Henri Kontinen/John Peers have qualified for the semi-finals. The Finnish-Australian pair were winners earlier in the day over seventh seeds Raven Klaasen/Rajeev Ram.

Herbert/Mahut have also been eliminated from contention to qualify for the semi-finals. This means that second seeds Jamie Murray/Bruno Soares are in total control over whether they can finish 2016 as the year-end No. 1 doubles team.

Herbert/Mahut and Lopez/Lopez traded comfortable service holds throughout most of the opening set. The Spaniards converted on the first break opportunity of the match at 5-5 after Mahut missed a routine backhand volley. A forehand winner from Marc Lopez on their first set point chance gave the fourth seeds a commanding lead.

A double fault by Herbert down break point in the opening game of the second set put the French pair in immediate danger, but Marc Lopez gifted the break back at 2-1 with a double fault of his own. Few opportunities presented themselves until the final stages of the second set, with Herbert/Mahut breaking Marc Lopez once more to force a Match Tie-break.

The Match Tie-break proved to be a tense affair. Herbert/Mahut were unable to hold leads at 4/1 and 6/4, while a critical double fault from Herbert at 8/8 gave the Spaniards their first match point. They converted on their first opportunity and wrapped up the match after one hour and 38 minutes. 

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Backstage Pass: Gael Monfils

Wed, 11/16/2016 - 9:13pm
Best dancer and biggest joker? Is there anything Gael Monfils does not nominate himself for in this fun quiz at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals?

Murray Nishikori Epic London Battle Highlights

Wed, 11/16/2016 - 8:36pm
Watch highlights of Andy Murray beating Kei Nishikori in an epic Barclays ATP World Tour Finals battle in London. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com. Photo: Peter Staples / ATP World Tour

Tipsarevic Stuns Djokovic In 2011 London Finale Classic Moment

Wed, 11/16/2016 - 8:10pm
In this Barclays ATP World Tour Finals Classic Moment, Janko Tipsarevic rallies to upset countryman Novak Djokovic in the round robin stage in 2011. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.

Herbert/Mahut Vs Lopez/Lopez Preview

Wed, 11/16/2016 - 7:46pm
Alternates Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah look ahead to the must-win doubles clash between Pierre-Hugues Herbert / Nicolas Mahut and Feliciano Lopez / Marc Lopez.

Wawrinka, Cilic Face Off In Group John McEnroe

Wed, 11/16/2016 - 7:10pm
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Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka will tonight play Croatia's Marin Cilic in Group John McEnroe at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals

Aside from a bold taste in shorts, what unites Wawrinka and Cilic? Wawrinka's run to the 2015 Roland Garros title will long be remembered for the pink tartan shorts he wore all fortnight, which he draped over the desk at his post-final media conference. And Cilic generated much comment for the colourful pair he had on for his opening appearance at this week's Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, which brought a defeat against Andy Murray. But, to silence your internal fashion critic for a moment, consider how these two have interrupted the Big Four's domination of men's tennis in recent years.

For all the Grand Slams that Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Murray have gathered over the years, this duo has also made their presence felt. Cilic took the 2014 US Open title while Wawrinka was victorious at the 2014 Australian Open, the 'lucky' shorts helped him to that 2015 triumph at Roland Garros, and he won this year's US Open

Bold is a word that would also describe how these two go about their tennis - they are not afraid to go for their shots (as well as to go for their shorts). They aren't going to melt under the arc-lights. That's been clear from the way Cilic has been playing of late on the ATP World Tour, with a title in Basel and registering a first victory over Djokovic in Paris. After losing his three round-robin matches in 2014, and then that defeat against Murray on his return to this competition, the Croatian will want to register a first victory at The O2.  

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Andy Murray, who has won his past 20 matches, will this afternoon play Kei Nishikori in Group John McEnroe at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals

A week is a long time in tennis - much could change in this sport over course of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. Five months, then, is an age. The New No. 1 will today do something for the first time since early June, when he will play an opponent in the Top 5 of the Emirates ATP Rankings - this hasn't happened since he was the runner-up to Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros

For Murray, the white heat of competition at The O2 could be about to become a little toastier. While Murray lost to Nishikori in the quarter-finals of this year's US Open - in what was the last meeting between the pair - that was when the Japanese star was ranked outside the Top 5. That match in New York could hardly have been any closer, with Nishikori prevailing 7-5 in the fifth set. They also played a humdinger of a match in Birmingham at the Davis Cup tie between Great Britain and Japan, which Murray won in five sets and almost five hours. More often that not, Murray has beaten Nishikori over the years, with the Brit leading 7-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head.

Victory today would take Murray's winning streak - which has already brought him titles in Beijing, Shanghai, Vienna and Paris - to 21 matches. It would be just one short of the career-best streak he put together over the summer. One of these two could today guarantee his progression into the knock-out stages. Murray's last appearance in the semi-finals was four years ago, while Nishikori last featured in the last four in 2014. 

DAY 4 PREVIEW:

Murray enters on a 20-match winning streak and he is trying to hold off Djokovic to finish No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time in his career. Djokovic improved to 2-0 and won Group Ivan Lendl on Tuesday with a 76 76 win over Milos Raonic and he has earned 400 Emirates ATP Ranking points so far. That gives Djokovic 11,180 points on the season, and with Murray losing 275 points on November 28 from the 2015 Davis Cup final, the Serbian is actually ahead in the race for year-end No. 1. Murray will have 11,310 points if he beats Nishikori and will move past Djokovic. Murray’s best result in the season finale is the semi-finals three times, in 2008 Shanghai and here at The O2 in 2010 and 2012. Nishikori is 2-13 lifetime against World No. 1 opponents with both of his wins coming over Djokovic in 2011 Basel (SF) and 2014 US Open (SF). Nishikori, who opened with a 62 63 win over Stan Wawrinka on Monday, is in the running to finish No. 3 for the first time in his career along with current No. 3 Wawrinka and Raonic.

In the evening session, No. 3 Stan Wawrinka and No. 7 Marin Cilic battle it out for the 13th time. Wawrinka holds a 10-2 FedEx ATP Head 2 Head record against the Croat, winning the past six meetings. Cilic’s only wins came in 2010. In their last meeting in the final of Geneva on May 21, Wawrinka won 64 76 to capture his first career ATP World Tour title on Swiss soil. In their previous meeting here two years ago, Wawrinka won the final round robin match 63 46 63.

Andy Murray attempts to begin the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals with a 2-0 record for the first time since his season finale debut in Shanghai in 2008. The World No. 1 opened with an impressive 63 62 win over Marin Cilic on Monday. Murray plays his second Group John McEnroe round robin match on Wednesday against No. 5 Kei Nishikori, who won the last meeting in five sets in the QF at the US Open on Sept. 7. Murray owns a 7-2 overall FedEx ATP Head 2 Head advantage, winning the other two meetings this season in a 1R Davis Cup match in five sets in Birmingham on Mar. 6 and 61 64 in the semi-finals of the Rio Olympics on Aug. 13. Nishikori’s other win (64 64) came here at The O2 two years ago in an opening round robin match.

Group John McEnroe Semi-finals Qualification Scenarios (Wednesday)

  • Murray qualifies if he defeats Nishikori and Cilic defeats Wawrinka
  • Murray also qualifies if he defeats Nishikori in 2 sets and Wawrinka defeats Cilic in 3 sets
  • Nishikori qualifies if he defeats Murray and Wawrinka defeats Cilic
  • Nishikori also qualifies if he defeats Murray in 2 sets and Cilic defeats Wawrinka in 3 sets

In the opening Group Fleming/McEnroe doubles match, No. 5 Henri Kontinen and John Peers take a 2-0 head-to-head record against No. 7 Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram. Both teams opened with straight-set wins on Monday. Kontinen and Peers enter on a six-match winning streak after winning their biggest career title at ATP Masters 1000 Paris. They have beaten all 7 other Barclays ATP World Tour Finals teams in 2016 (6 since Oct. 14). In the other match, No. 1 Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut meet No. 4 Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez for the third time (tied 1-1). The Spaniards won the first meeting at Roland Garros in June en route to the title before the Frenchmen won a QF match at ATP Masters 1000 Paris. With one win this week or one loss by Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares, Mahut will clinch year-end No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings. He and Herbert are also competing with Murray and Soares to finish 2016 as the No. 1 doubles team. The Frenchmen lead the race by 175 points.

Group Fleming/McEnroe Semi-finals Qualification Scenarios (Wednesday)

  • Kontinen/Peers qualify if they defeat Klaasen/Ram and Lopez/Lopez defeat Herbert/Mahut
  • Kontinen/Peers also qualify if they defeat Klaasen/Ram in 2 sets and Herbert/Mahut defeat Lopez/Lopez in 3 sets
  • Klaasen/Ram qualify if they defeat Kontinen/Peers and Herbert/Mahut defeat Lopez/Lopez
  • Klaasen/Ram also qualify if they defeat Kontinen/Peers in 2 sets and Lopez/Lopez defeat Herbert/Mahut in 3 sets

Previewing Wawrinka Vs Cilic In London

Wed, 11/16/2016 - 6:56pm
Singles alternate David Goffin previews the Marin Cilic vs Stan Wawrinka round-robin match at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London.

Murray Digs Deep To Top Nishikori

Wed, 11/16/2016 - 6:49pm

Andy Murray dug deep to fight past Kei Nishikori 6-7(9), 6-4, 6-4 on Wednesday to improve to a 2-0 record in Group John McEnroe at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. The British favourite extended his winning streak to 21 matches and also stayed in the battle to hold off Novak Djokovic for the year-end No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.

Murray now has 11,585 points in the Emirates ATP Rankings, 405 points ahead of No. 2-ranked and fellow 29-year-old Djokovic (11,180 points). The Scot improved to an 8-2 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Nishikori, with victory in three hours and 21 minutes - the longest best-of-three-sets match at the year-end championships (since 1991, when records were first kept). It betters Rafael Nadal's victory over Murray in the 2010 semi-finals, which lasted three hours and 12 minutes.

“I’m a bit tired, obviously,” said Murray. “But you tend to feel it more the following day, sort of in terms like stiffness and soreness in the body. I was in the ice bath after the match. That obviously helps kind of make you feel a bit better. But sort of 10, 12 hours afterwards the body starts to stiffen up. I'm sure tomorrow I'll be a bit sore. But it's positive I get a day's rest, a day's recovery tomorrow.

”It’s obviously important to win matches to give yourself the best chance to go through. 200 points for each match here is quite a lot, as well. Obviously that increases as you get into the semis, potentially in the final. It could come down to a match between me and Novak. Who knows what's going to happen [over] the next few days. Just from my side, [I need to] concentrate on trying to win my own matches, get through as many as I can, make it as tough as possible for Novak to jump me.”

View practice schedule & watch live stream from practice courts

In the first set, Nishikori saved one set point at 5-6, and another two sets points in the tie-break as he looked to record his second successive win – and third overall victory – over Murray. Fifth seed Nishikori first saved one set point at 5-6, 30/40, when top seed Murray snatched at a forehand with the court open. Murray recovered from a 3/6 deficit in the tie-break, then saved a further set point at 7/8, before hitting a mid-court forehand wide to end the 85-minute opener. Murray was left to rue missed opportunities to clinch the set at 7/6, when he mis-timed a forehand, and also at 9/8 – when Nishikori needed to hit two smashes to finish the point.

Murray regrouped immediately to break Nishikori to 30 in the first game and opened up a 4-2 advantage, but a concentration lapse let Nishikori back to 4-4, when the Scot struck a backhand volley into the net. Murray played with greater intensity, realising Nishikori was in the ascendancy. He broke Nishikori, then proceeded to save two break points. Before, finally, clinching the second set that lasted 53 minutes, on his third set point opportunity, when Nishikori hit a backhand long.

Each game in the deciding set was competitive, but it was Murray who found a way to break Nishikori in the third and fifth games. Nishikori was unlucky not to break for 2-2, squandering two chances in a 14-point game. With Murray on the brink of victory at 5-2, Nishikori fired again and won two straight games. Murray remained in control to improve his ATP World Tour-best match record to 75-9, which included eight titles in 2016.

 

Nishikori, who reached the 2014 semi-finals on his debut at the season finale, dropped to a 58-19 match record on the season, which includes the Memphis title and four other finals. He will play Marin Cilic in his final match of the group stage.

“It never feels good after losing the match,” said Nishikori. “I know it was close. I mean, I’m definitely disappointed… I think it was great match, both of us. I played really consistently [and] played with good energy. I'm sure he's going to qualify from the group. I will try to aim for the second spot.”

Backstage Pass: Treat Huey and Max Mirnyi

Wed, 11/16/2016 - 5:56pm
Who takes top honours as the best dancer? Who takes the longest with pre-match hair-styling? Find out in this special quiz from the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

Kontinen Peers React As They Remain Unbeaten In London

Wed, 11/16/2016 - 5:56pm
Henri Kontinen and John Peers are on the cusp of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals semi-finals following a second victory at the O2 arena. The in-form duo are currently on a seven-match winning streak having clinched the BNP Paribas Masters 1000 title in Paris.

Down Set Points, Nishikori, Murray Produce Hot Shots

Wed, 11/16/2016 - 5:41pm
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Seven set points saved. Eighty-five minutes of all-out effort. One memorable set of tennis at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London on Wednesday afternoon.

Kei Nishikori and Andy Murray produced one of the best opening sets of the season as both players fought off set points with gutsy tennis at The O2.

Murray fell behind 3/6 in the tie-break and had to expend every ounce of hustle to erase another set point at 5/6.

Next, it was Nishikori's turn to save a set point. At 8/9, the Japanese looked to have a gimme shot as he waltzed up to the net for an easy overhead. But Murray again showed extraordinary hustle.

Nishikori Saves Set Point With Smash Against Murray

Wed, 11/16/2016 - 5:27pm
Watch Kei Nishikori save a set point against Andy Murray with a smash during their grueling first-set tie-break on Wednesday at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.