NOT even the band could keep up with Andy Murray yesterday. A collection of trumpeters, trombonists and a bloke with a shiny sousaphone were happily running through a compilation of their greatest hits up in the gods of the Accorhotels Arena when the world No.2 took the court – and Murray meant business.
After a gruelling three-setter on Friday afternoon, the Scot had his sights set on reaching a fourth Masters final of the year at the BNP Paribas Masters with as little fuss as possible, no matter that the tireless David Ferrer was standing in his way. And once the band had muted their mouthpieces and sat on their hands, he set about the Spaniard to secure a 6-4, 6-3 win in one hour and 35 minutes.
It was Murray’s 68th match win of the year and the 59th time in 2015 that he has won the match after winning the first set. In fact, he has not lost a match from a set to the good all year. Inching ever-closer to cementing end-of-year No.2 ranking (if he wins the title today, that position is his), Murray is in peak form as he prepares for his 16th Masters final (and his first in Paris) and attempts to bring his Masters trophy collection to a round dozen by claiming his third title of the season at this level. This was Murray playing the numbers game.
“It’s been a good year,” Murray said. “I think most of the Masters events I played pretty high level. There is a few matches I feel I could have done a bit better. But, for the most part, it’s been very good. This is a tournament I’ve struggled at in the past. It’s nice to come here, put a few good wins together, and I think a few very good performances, as well.
“Today’s match, there were periods of the match that were a little bit physical, but I did feel like I dictated a lot of the points and I finished a lot of points up at the net and was able to shorten enough points to not make it too tiring.”
The only obstacle in this otherwise smooth ride to success comes in the shape of Novak Djokovic, the world No.1 and the man who has not been beaten in 21 consecutive matches. The all-conquering Serb dispatched a tiring Stan Wawrinka 6-3, 3-6, 6-0 to reach his 14th consecutive tournament final – an open-era record – and goes into today’s final with Murray with a 20-9 win-loss record over his old rival.
They have played six times this year and Murray has won just the once (in the Montreal Masters final). But with the Scot hitting peak form in time for the biggest and most important end to any season in his career – the Davis cup final is his ultimate goal – the world No.2 was bullish about his chances today.
“I feel like this year I have pushed Novak close and beaten him once,” Murray said. “But, you know, I also had, I think, two of the matches in Indian Wells and the last one in Shanghai from my side weren’t good. But apart from those ones, you know, I have been close.
“So it’s up to me to learn from the ones like the ones in Shanghai to make sure they aren’t as lopsided as that.”
Today’s match will bring Murray’s regular season to a close but as the world No.2 and the leading light in Britain’s Davis Cup team, he still has plenty to look forward to. The ATP World Tour Finals begin a week today and the moment his work there is done, he will head to Belgium for the Davis Cup final. At the end of a long and exhausting season, Murray needs to conserve his energies while, at the same time, find a way to beat the best players on the planet for some of the biggest prizes in the game.
“I feel pretty good,” Murray said, reassuringly. “My legs feel fine. But the accumulation of matches and playing five days in a row here can take a little bit out of you physically and mentally. So that’s where I said I do need to be smart with the days I get off.
“There is obviously one more match to go this week. I have no idea how that will go. But the first two matches [were] nothing really. I mean, I practice a lot more than the amount that I played in those two matches most days.”
Meanwhile, the band will be back for today’s final only this time they will know to keep their eyes fixed on the world No.2: he has everything to play for in the next three weeks and he is in no mood to hang about.