Roger Federer had it right. After losing a draining three-hour thriller to Andy Murray in the Tennis Masters Cup here on Friday night, the former world No 1 was asked whether he would have had enough energy to play Nikolay Davydenko in the semi-finals the following day. “To be honest I’m pretty happy I don’t have a match tomorrow,” Federer said. “Playing Davydenko wouldn’t have been a whole lot of fun. Against him, you have to defend and run and stuff.”
Instead it was Murray who defended and ran, only to be stuffed as Davydenko won 7-5 6-2 to earn a place in today’s final against Novak Djokovic, a 4-6 6-3 7-5 winner over Gilles Simon.
Murray looked exhausted from the moment he entered the Qi Zhong Stadium less than 21 hours after leaving it, the physical, emotional and mental energy expended in beating Federer for the third time this year having clearly taken its toll.
As early as the third game Murray was bent double with fatigue after a particularly lengthy rally. The 21-year-old Scot turned to his entourage and crossed his hands in a gesture indicating that he had nothing more to give. At changeovers he sank into his chair with the relief of a boxer who had been on the end of a pummelling.
For the past four months it has usually been Murray battering opponents into submission, and any disappointment he will feel at not making further progress here will be far outweighed by the reflection that this has been the best year of his career. Since Wimbledon he has lost just five matches.
Murray’s bank manager will also have a smile on his face, his client’s prize money for this season having totalled $3.7million (nearly £2.5m). Although he would have won an additional $940,000 (£633,000) if he had beaten Davydenko and Djokovic here, Murray leaves China richer by $625,000 (£421,000), having banked $300,000 in prize money, a $100,000 participation fee and a $250,000 bonus for having taken part as the year-|ending world No 4.
Having already qualified for the semi-finals of the season-ending tournament, Murray did not need to |extend himself against Federer. If he had lost he would have faced Djokovic in the last four, though he said that he had no preference for his next opponent. Murray, who did not get to bed until 2.30 in the morning after beating Federer, insisted that he had no regrets about having given his all in his final round-robin match.
“I beat probably the best player of all time,” Murray said. “To beat him means a similar amount to winning a tournament like this. Ideally I would have liked to have beaten him more easily and given myself a slightly better chance to prepare for this match, but as you know I don’t like losing. I’m proud that I gave 110 per cent in the match. I think other players might not have taken that option, but I’m happy that I did.”
He added: “Maybe if I’d had that match [against Federer] early in the day it might have been a bit easier for me to recover properly, because there are a lot of things you have to try to fit in after a match of that length. It’s tough when you finish a match at 11:30 at night.”
Davydenko, the world No 5, has never reached a Grand Slam final but is one of the game’s most underrated players. A superb athlete with an aggressive baseline game and a fine return of serve, the 27-year-old Russian is a relentless retriever and a master at manoeuvring his opponents around the court.
He also had the advantage of having rested the previous day, and from the start it was clear that he would have too much in the tank for Murray. Although the Scot broke back immediately after dropping his serve in the opening game, Davydenko broke again at 5-5 and served out for the set.
In the second set Murray held on until 2-2, from which point Davydenko won the last four games to win in an hour and 39 minutes.
Davydenko said: “Murray wanted to show everyone here he is the best player by beating Federer. Maybe he was really tired for today. Recovering to play 24 hours after a three-hour match is very difficult. If he had lost the tie-break in the second set [against Federer] he would have had more of a chance to recover today – and maybe to have played much better against Djokovic.”
Murray, who thinks Davydenko will beat Djokovic in today’s final, added: “He’s a tough guy to play against when you’re not feeling like you can chase every ball down. He doesn’t miss a whole lot. He takes the ball so early. I thought he played really, really well.
“I couldn’t get much going because he was making me do a lot of running. I don’t want to try to make excuses. He played much better than me.”Reuse content