Murray fights to keep season alive – then plans rare holiday


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The Independent Online

Andy Murray is hoping not to start thinking about holiday plans until the end of Monday night's final here at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals but the Scot will be taking his first break for two years after the season-ending finale. Murray, who meets Jo-Wilfried Tsonga tonight in his concluding round-robin match as he attempts to qualify for Sunday's semi-finals, is changing his off-season plans this year to incorporate both a holiday and Christmas at home.

Last year Murray trained in Miami in December and then went straight to Brisbane at the start of January to play his only warm-up tournament before the Australian Open. This year he will take a holiday, go to Miami to train, return home for Christmas and then leave on Boxing Day for Abu Dhabi, where he is playing in an exhibition event, before heading for Brisbane and then Melbourne.

Murray said he and his girlfriend, Kim Sears, would take a holiday somewhere within easy reach because he does enough travelling in the rest of the year. Wherever it is, he will not be spending all day sunbathing.

"I'm happy to do that for a couple of days but after that I try and do some stuff," he said. "If you just lie around your body stiffens up when you start practising again. It takes time to get back into it and your body hurts quite a lot as well after you take a week off doing absolutely nothing."

Tonight Murray will need to devote all his energies to trying to qualify for the semi-finals here. The official version of the possible outcomes of today's concluding Group A matches contains 10 possible scenarios in terms of which two players will go through to the last four.

The advantage for Murray, who has one win from his first two round-robin matches, is that he will know exactly what he needs to do against Tsonga once the afternoon match between Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych is over.

At the moment any two players could qualify and Murray's possibilities range from losing to Tsonga and still qualifying, to beating him and not qualifying. The one certainty at this stage is that a straight-sets win against an opponent he has beaten six times out of seven would guarantee his qualification.

"You should be able to just play the match and try to win without thinking about any of the other stuff that goes with it," Murray said when asked whether the qualification system was distracting. "I've won two matches here before and qualified but I've also won two matches and not qualified.

"The only way to guarantee is by winning three matches or by winning your first two matches in straight sets. It's not easy to win matches comfortably here because you're playing against the best players on a quick surface. It often happens, because of the way they schedule the matches, you always come down to the last day and who's going to qualify. These scenarios happen all the time."

Leon Smith, Britain's Davis Cup captain, sees Murray as the clear favourite to beat Tsonga tonight. "It's a good match-up for Andy," he said. "Tsonga has a great serve, but Andy is a great returner so he negates that. Once they get into the points situation, Andy is very, very good at exploiting those areas that Jo could be weak in."