Murray handed tough draw for tour finals

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The Independent Online

Andy Murray will open the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London on Sunday by taking on the man who has just replaced him at No 4 in the world rankings. In the first session Murray will meet Robin Soderling, who is in peak form after winning the Paris Masters last weekend.

The elite eight-man field at the O2 Arena is divided into two round-robin sections, with the four men in each group playing each other to decide who will go through to the knockout semi-finals. In terms of his opponents' positions in the world rankings Murray was favoured by yesterday's draw, but he could well find himself in the more difficult group.

Murray's other opponents are Roger Federer (world No 2) and David Ferrer (No 7). The Scot should fancy his chances against Ferrer, despite the Spaniard's victories on his favoured surface of clay in their only two meetings this year, but Federer and Soderling have been in excellent form in recent weeks. Federer's only two defeats since the US Open were against Murray in the Shanghai Masters final and against Gaël Monfils in the semi-finals in Paris, where Soderling won his first Masters Series title.

Soderling has played Murray only once since 2006, the Swede winning in straight sets in the quarter-finals in Indian Wells earlier this year. Federer has lost eight of his 13 matches against the world No 5 but has won their two Grand Slam finals. The Swiss also beat him in the round-robin phase in London last year, avenging his defeat at the same stage in Shanghai in 2008.

Rafael Nadal (No 1) and Novak Djokovic (No 3) head the other group, but the Spaniard has looked below his best since winning his third Grand Slam title of the year in New York while the Serb may have half an eye on his country's first appearance in the Davis Cup final next month. Tomas Berdych (No 6), who lost to Nadal in the Wimbledon final, and Andy Roddick (No 8), whose record of qualifying for the end-of-season event for the eighth year in succession is bettered only by Federer, complete the section.

Murray, who has been practising at Queen's Club, acknowledged that he had been drawn in "a tough group" but added: "I don't see either group as being easier than the other. The atmosphere when I played last year was amazing and, hopefully, that will help me again."

Twelve months ago Murray missed out on a place in the semi-finals by the narrowest of margins. Juan Martin del Potro, Federer and Murray all won two of their three group matches, after which the percentage of games won in the round-robin phase was decisive. Del Potro, who edged Murray out by virtue of winning just one more game, went on to reach the final before losing to Nikolay Davydenko. Del Potro has missed most of this year through injury while Davydenko has not earned enough ranking points to qualify.

The world's top eight doubles pairs will also play in London. During the round-robin phase there will be two sessions a day in the 17,500-capacity arena. Many sessions are sold out, with sales on course to match last year's total of more than 250,000, a world record for an indoor tennis tournament.

The draw was held at La Galleria in Pall Mall, where self-portraits by the eight singles finalists are on display. They produced the images, which are being sold via an online charity auction, by hitting paint-covered balls against large canvases overlaid with a stencilled image of themselves in action.

Singles draw: World Tour Finals, London

Group A R Nadal (Spain), N Djokovic (Serbia), T Berdych (Czech Republic), A Roddick (US).

Group B R Federer (Switzerland), R Soderling (Sweden), A Murray (GB), D Ferrer (Spain).

www.barclaysatpworldtourfinals.com/ArtofTennis

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