Wawrinka beats Murray to reach semifinals at ATP finals

ABS-CBN Sports on Nov 21, 2015 10:29 AM
Wawrinka beats Murray to reach semifinals at ATP finals
Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland plays a return to Andy Murray of Britain during their singles tennis match at the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

AP Sports Writer

LONDON (AP) — Stan Wawrinka grabbed the last semifinal spot at the ATP World Tour finals by beating Andy Murray 7-6 (4), 6-4 Friday to wrap up the group stage at the season-ending tournament.

Murray led 4-2 in the first-set tiebreaker but then lost the next five points and was broken in the first game of the second to put Wawrinka in control. The French Open champion broke again for a 5-2 lead but needed two attempts to serve out the match. He saved two break points at 5-4 before converting his second match point when Murray's backhand went wide.

Wawrinka will play Swiss compatriot Roger Federer on Saturday, while Rafael Nadal faces Novak Djokovic in the other semifinal. Nadal beat David Ferrer 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-4 earlier to finish the group stage unbeaten.

"He's playing really well," Wawrinka said of Federer. "It's tough to play (him) indoors, especially at the World Tour Final, he is always fit, always ready. ... I had a tough match now, two hours match with a lot of pressure. I also feel quite tired. I'm going to be focused on that, try to rest, try to recover and be ready for hopefully a good match."

Murray's early exit gives him a bit more extra rest ahead of next weekend's Davis Cup final against Belgium on clay, but the Briton said that hasn't been on his mind in London.

"I wanted to try and win the tournament," Murray said. "Obviously you have to try your best right way through to the end. It wasn't enough."

Wawrinka served for the first set at 5-3 but Murray broke back after chasing down a volley to hit a passing shot for a winner and force the tiebreaker. But after earning the first mini-break, the Briton made a number of errors to hand the momentum back to Wawrinka.

"In the tiebreak, I made bad mistakes at the wrong time," Murray said. "I believe I gave a cheap point away at 4-2. I missed a forehand on the first ball of the rally. It was a fairly basic shot. ... I made one other error at the end of the set as well. Obviously, that was an important point in the match."

In the early match, neither player had much at stake as Nadal had already clinched first place in the group and Ferrer had been eliminated, but the two baseline sluggers still went at it relentlessly for more than 2 ½ hours in a match full of heavy hitting and long rallies.

Nadal earned the decisive break to go up 5-4 in the third set — having previously wasted five break points in a marathon first game of the decider — and sealed victory with a backhand volley winner.

It was Nadal's third straight win in London but that kind of grueling encounter probably wasn't the best preparation for a match against Djokovic — especially as the Serb No. 1 had the day off. But Nadal is more concerned with maintaining his late-season resurgence after struggling for most of the year.

"For me it was another opportunity to compete. I think I competed well. I won a very tough match," Nadal said. "Three straight wins against top-eight players, that's great news for me. ... That's a positive way to finish the season. Let's see tomorrow what's going to happen."

Nadal leveled the match after breaking for 5-3 in the second set and then serving it out at love. The third then began with the best game of the match, which lasted nearly 14 minutes and 200 shots — including some spectacular winners from both players. Ferrer saved five break points before finally converting his third game point.

That game seemed to take its toll on both players and neither had another break point until Ferrer netted a backhand at 4-4 and Nadal then hit a forehand winner down the line to take the lead for good.

"Rafael in the third set, he improved his game," Ferrer said. "It was close, but he was better."

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