Andy Murray last night saved five match points before fighting back to beat Tommy Robredo 3-6, 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (10-8) in a gruelling but gripping Valencia Open final.
Last month, Murray also saved five match points against the Spaniard on his way to winning the final in Shenzhen, China. This time, he had to do it in front of Robredo’s home fans, who enthusiastically punctuated the contest with chants of “Tommy, Tommy!” but ended up applauding the effort made by both players on Valencia’s indoor hard court.
Robredo came from a break down in the second set to force a tiebreaker that could have earned him his first win against Murray since 2007. Murray looked flustered, slamming his racket down twice, but he managed to save two match points before levelling at a set each.
The Scot then saved three more match points in the final tiebreaker before hitting a decisive backhand to win in 3 hours, 20 minutes, making it the longest final on the ATP circuit this year. It was Murray’s 31st career title and second in Valencia after winning in 2009.
“I know it was an incredible match,” Murray told atptour.com. “The tennis at the end and in the second set was high level. I played well at the right moments.
“I like playing here. It’s a nice place to come this time of year. It’s extremely warm outside which is good for the muscles, the joints and the mind as well. I came to train here earlier in the year. Good food, good weather and good people.”
The two-time grand slam winner will rise to No 5 in the rankings with his third title of the year, after he also beat David Ferrer last weekend to win in Vienna.
Yesterday’s match saw both players continue to draw out rally after rally despite both visibly tiring and showing signs of cramps in their legs as the energy-sapping final wore on.
“It was an amazing match, and you have to enjoy it,” Robredo said. “Unfortunately someone has to win and it was decided by a few balls. It is what it is.”
The 32-year-old Robredo started well, saving six break points in the first set while converting the only two chances he had to break Murray’s serve.
Robredo first broke for a 4-3 lead after winning a long game that at one point left Murray leaning on the barrier to catch his breath while the Spaniard made use of an empty chair to sit down.
The local favourite pressed Murray in his next service game as well and set up a set point with a forehand winner, then converted it when the Scot sent a shot long.
Murray responded by breaking Robredo’s first service game of the second set, but the Spaniard levelled at 4-4.
In the tiebreaker, Murray saved the first match point by sprinting to return two deep ground strokes before Robredo’s forehand clipped the net and fell long. Murray then hit an ace to save the second before forcing a third set.
The rivals traded breaks as both tightened up with cramps.
Robredo then saved Murray’s first match point at 5-4 before holding serve when his opponent sent the ball wide.
Meanwhile, Roger Federer has his sights set on ending the year as the world’s top-ranked player after the 33-year-old claimed his fifth title of the year in his home town.
The 17-times grand slam champion outclassed David Goffin 6-2 6-2 to win the Swiss Indoor tournament in Basel for a sixth time, moving ever closer to Serbian Novak Djokovic at the top of the rankings in the process.
A strong finish at the Paris Masters and the ATP World Tour Finals could see him end the year as number one for the first time since 2009 – proof that his skills are not in decline despite the advancing years and two sets of twins.
“It would be very special, you can’t say it’s not important, world No 1, it’s what it’s all about really, together with some tournaments you really care about,” said Federer after his 51-minute thrashing of Goffin.
“With the year I’ve had and the amount of finals I’ve played, the level of tennis I’ve played, I’m really pleased that I have a shot at being there. But I’m sure Novak will be very motivated. It’s going to be interesting weeks ahead.”
Federer, whose 302 weeks as world number one is a record, as is his streak of 237 consecutive weeks atop the rankings, is less than 500 points behind Djokovic with a combined 2,500 points up for grabs in Paris and London.
Djokovic won both of those titles last year and therefore cannot significantly add to his haul as he will be defending points, while Federer lost in the semi-finals at both events and can potentially close the gap.
In Singapore, Serena Williams destroyed Romania’s Simona Halep 6-3, 6-0 yesterday to win the WTA Finals championship, proving once again why she remains the most formidable force in women’s tennis.
Williams avenged her “embarrassing” loss to Halep in the group stage of the season-ending tournament with a ruthless display, overpowering her pint-sized opponent at every opportunity.
Halep shocked Williams 6-0, 6-2 in the group stage of the elite event but she was unable to repeat that performance as the American reminded everyone why she is the No 1 player in the world.
“I made so many errors in our last game. I knew for a fact I couldn’t make that many errors,” Williams said.
“I had to play more Serena style tennis and just do what I do best: enforce myself. That’s what I was trying to do.”
For Williams, it was her third successive win in the WTA Finals, second only in prestige to the four grand slams, and her fifth overall, tied for second with Steffi Graf.
Only Martina Navratilova, with eight titles, has won more, but with Williams showing no signs of slowing down at the age of 33, it is not inconceivable that the American could overhaul her.