To paraphrase the character in the famous diner scene in When Harry Met Sally, I’ll have what he’s having.
Late on Wednesday afternoon, Andy Murray looked spent. He had sweated and toiled for three hours and 20 minutes to find a way past Kei Nishikori and even though he won, he was not guaranteed of a place in the semi-finals of the ATP World Tour Finals. At the same time, Stan Wawrinka was looking impressive and powerful as he muscled past Marin Cilic. This did not look good for the Scot.
And yet yesterday Murray marched into the 17,000 seater stadium, took one look at Wawrinka and his stunning backhand and flattened them both 6-4, 6-2. Whatever it was that Murray had done in his day off or whatever he had eaten for his breakfast had worked like magic. There was no hint of tiredness, no sniff of nerves or tension – Murray was at the peak of his powers and Wawrinka could do
nothing about it.
“I weathered the early storm a little bit,” Murray said. “Stan came out hitting the ball huge. He was hitting a lot of winners, a lot of aces. He had a couple of they weren’t huge opportunities on my serve, but 15-30s, 30-alls.
“But once I got through the early part of the match, I started to create chances in most of his service games. I served very well myself. I got a lot of free points with my serve. That allowed me to also dictate a lot of the points.”
The win put Murray in pole position in his group and meant that he dodged Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals. He will, instead, play Milos Raonic today for a place in the final, while Djokovic faces Nishikori. But if everyone else thought that avoiding the world No 2 was a bonus, it did not fizz on Murray at all. Throughout the Scot’s professional life, Djokovic has been lurking on the horizon, a familiar obstacle to be overcome if Murray wanted to achieve his goals.
“There’s a good chance that if I want to win the tournament, I would have to win against him,” Murray shrugged. “That would either be in the semis or the final. I don’t think that makes a whole lot of difference.
“But I feel like my game’s in a good place. I played much better today than I did a couple days ago. Physically I feel good. So I’m looking forward to the weekend.”
Murray had a spring in his step as he went to face Wawrinka – just moments before, his brother and Bruno Soares learned that they would end the year as the top ranked doubles team. So after a lifetime of sibling rivalry,
the two Murray men were
now the best in the world at their chosen sport. That was special.
“I think we’re probably each other’s biggest fans,” Andy said. “It’s really special to get to watch what he’s achieved in the biggest competitions in the sport. Neither of us ever would have expected this when we were growing up. We need to try to enjoy it.”
The celebrations are on ice for the next couple of days, though, until the ATP Finals are over and Murray’s thoughts are only today’s task: nullifying the Raonic serve and on a fast court, the already huge serve has even more
venom and sting. No matter: Murray has won their last
seven outings and has not lost to the big Canadian in more than two years.
“You don’t normally get loads of opportunities against the big servers,” Murray said. “Then it comes down to when you do get those chances, whether you take them or not. And this year when I’ve
played him, I’ve created a
few opportunities in the matches. When they’ve come, I’ve been pretty clinical. I’ll need to be the same if I want to win.”
There are two days left to decide the year-end ranking and the current No 1 is looking sharp as he heads into the final weekend. Whatever it is that he puts on his cornflakes, most everyone in the locker room would like to have some of what Andy Murray is having.