Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori left everything they had on the court of the O2 Arena, battling for 3 hours and 20 minutes in what has been the longest match since the World Tour Finals moved to London in 2009! World number 1 Andy Murray recovered from losing the opening set and topple the Japanese 6-7 6-4 6-4, making one extra break in sets 2 and 3 for his 21st victory in a row and improving his H2H record with Kei to 8-2. In addition, Andy claimed his first victory over Top 5 rival after that one over Stan Wawrinka in the Roland Garros semi-final and his two wins over Kei were the longest best-of-5 and best-f-3 matches of the season (Davis Cup in March and now this match).
Almost nothing could separate the rivals in a real baseline combat, as both players showed their quickness, stamina, construction of the points and also rock solid groundstrokes from both wings. Of course, there were a lot of errors on both sides but that was expected in the match of this kind, in which the crowd could see literally every shot.
Kei couldn't hit an ace in the entire match, with 6 double faults, and the lack of the free points put him in a very hard position once again, working hard to earn every point. He was fighting really well, coming back from 4-2 down in the second set, but he didn't have the strength to bring the match home, with Andy digging deep to win the last two games of the set and switch the momentum to his side.
The match wasn't the most quality one but it brought real drama from the first until the last point, as both players gave their everything to come on top in the end. Andy had his ups and downs, playing against 11 break points, but he did a remarkable job of saving 9 of them, limiting the damage in his service games and emerging as a deserved winner in the end.
He finished the match with 31 winners and 39 unforced errors, while Kei was on a similar 37-49 ratio. Once again, they made a lot of mistakes, often from easy positions, but overall it was a real cracker that kept the spectators on the edge of their seats.
The players were involved in a great battle right from the start, and the opening set went into a tie break after Andy saved 3 and Kei one break point. Nishikori opened up a 6-3 lead with 3 mini-breaks (great forehand winner in that 9th point) but Murray stayed calm in the next 3 points and bounced back to 6-6, keeping his chances alive.
In the next 8 points, both players were good on their serve and it required 20 points in the tie break to finally determine the winner of the opener. It was Kei, who took the tie break 11-9 when Murray sent the forehand long, in the marathon set that lasted an hour and 26 minutes! Both opponents struggled on their second serve in the second set, but it was Andy who pulled his nerves together in the closing stages to take it by 6-4 and force a decider.
He saved 3 out of 4 break points he faced, and he broke Kei twice from 3 opportunities he created, showing the will and determination that carried him to the best player of the world status. He broke Nishikori in the opening game and kept the lead throughout the opening 6 games.
Japanese got back on the scoreboard, breaking back in game 8 to level the score at 4-4 for a complete drama in the final two games. We saw 6 deuces in games 9 and 10 and it was Andy who made a crucial break for a 5-4 lead, serving for the set in the next game.
He converted his 3rd set point to clinch the set, but only after saving 2 break points, as Kei refused to give the set away to the last shot. This gave a huge boost to Murray, who built up a 4-1 lead in the 3rd set, breaking Nishikori twice in a row.
Despite his amazing fighting spirit, Nishikori lost a lot of his fitness and stamina by this point, and his serve was under a real threat (he lost almost 50% of the points in his games in the final set). Kei managed to prolong the match for a few more games with a break in game 8, cutting the deficit to 5-3, but Andy was rock solid in game 10 while serving for the match, not losing a point and converting his first match point for the second win in the round robin stage.