In the complicated world of round-robin tennis, the easiest way to ensure success is to keep on winning – which is exactly what Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares did last night.
They booked their place in the semi-finals of the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals with a comprehensive 6-4, 6-3 win over Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah: two matches played so far, two matches won and their first goal of the week reached with one match to spare. Tomorrow they must take on Nikola Mektic and Alexander Peya but the result matters not one jot – Murray and Soares are through to the last four, their third consecutive Tour Finals semi-final.
Better still, of all the players at London’s O2 Arena, be they singles or doubles players, Murray and Soares are the first to qualify from the round robin phase of the competition.
“We’re really happy to win,” Murray said. “Really happy to get through to the semi-finals with a match still to go. I think we played a really good match again tonight. It was always going to be difficult against those guys because they always compete so well.
“Previously when we played them, we’ve always felt like we’ve played well against them, but kind of struggled to, like, close out the matches against them. Today we did a good job of that. Had a couple of setbacks in the match. But we fought back hard each time and didn’t let it affect us too much.”
On paper, the Colombian team ought to have been the favourites. They were the second ranked team on results this year (the Scots-Brazilian combo are ranked fourth) and they were Australian Open finalists. But Murray and Soares seem to have their number, beating them in four of their last six meetings and twice in three matches this year, prior to last night. From the start, it looked as if history was about to repeat itself.
True enough, Soares dropped his serve in the third game of the match but by that point, he and Murray were already a break of serve to the good. As the sharp end of the set approached, Murray engineered another break of serve with a lob that had the Colombians scampering back in the desperate hope of salvaging the situation. They failed and Murray and Soares had the first set.
There is a confidence and a real sense of purpose about the pair this week so when Murray dropped his serve at the start of the second set, there was no panic, no sign of nerves or despondency; the soon-to-be semi-finalists bounced straight back and broke Farah’s serve and, just to be on the safe side, made mincemeat of Cabal’s serve a couple of games later.
Now, though, there is a dead rubber to contend with, not that Murray and his right-hand man have any intention of relaxing tomorrow.
“We’ll be trying to win,” Murray said, reassuringly. “I think it’s important to kind of maintain the level of performance that we’ve had the first couple matches. I think winning keeps the confidence going. Yeah, that’s our goal: just keep trying to win.”
But with three days to think before their next competitive match, Murray is making the most of his home advantage. Greenwich is 40 minutes by tube away from his home in Wimbledon and, whenever he can, Murray heads back to the other side of town to get away from the pressures of the Tour Finals.
“It’s nice to sleep in your own bed, be at home,” he said. “It’s easier to kind of get away from the tennis, just like mentally more than anything.
“I stayed at home last night. Just being with family, as well, away from the tennis event. Yeah, it’s nice, relaxing. I prefer it that way. But it doesn’t happen very often.”
Should he and Soares win on Saturday and reach their first final in London, he may not have the luxury of a quick getaway back to SW19. But one last night away from home before the season ends will be a sacrifice worth making if he can become only the second British man – the other is his brother – to claim a trophy at the season-ending showcase.