Murray: I'm ready to take London by storm again
Buoyed by US Open and Olympic triumphs, Scot aims to end year on a high
Andy Murray has been called many things, but flash is not one of them. As the Olympic and US Open champion, the Scot was asked by adidas whether he would like to wear specially branded shoes – in the style of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal – at this week's Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. "I didn't really fancy it," Murray said, looking down at the black shoes with bright yellow shoelaces that he will be wearing at the O2 Arena. "I've never really understood why people have names on their shoes."
While Murray will not be openly milking his success, the home crowd will relish the chance to acclaim their first male Grand Slam singles champion for 76 years. Only 6,000 of the 262,000 tickets for the season-ending finale remain unsold. Any that are left for tomorrow's opening session in the 17,500-capacity stadium, when Murray takes on Tomas Berdych in the Scot's first match on a British court since his Olympic triumph, are likely to be snapped up quickly.
Middle England took time to warm to Murray, but his tears after losing the Wimbledon final to Federer, and his national pride and whole-hearted efforts during the Olympics, changed the perceptions of many people. "The support at the Olympics was unbelievable, so I would like something like that if possible," Murray said as he looked to the week ahead. "You do need it and it does help when you're playing against the best players in the world. It does give you that lift. It gives you extra motivation, especially at the end of the season, where physically you may not be feeling perfect. It helps to have that little boost."
The prize money and the ranking points on offer this week are bettered only at the Grand Slam tournaments, but there will be plenty else at stake for Murray. If he can add the year-end crown to his Olympic and US Open titles he will make a strong case to be named the International Tennis Federation's "world champion" for 2012 and will improve his chances of beating the likes of Bradley Wiggins and Mo Farah when the end-of-year British sports awards are handed out.
In the longer term, Murray has his eyes on the world No 1 ranking. Having pulled out of London last year after only one match because of injury, he has the chance to make up plenty of ground on Federer in particular. The Swiss, who will be defending a title he has won a record six times, will lose his world No 1 position to Novak Djokovic in tomorrow's updated list.
Although the tournament's round-robin format means it is possible to lose a group match and still win the title, it is also an event in which you need to be at the top of your game from the start. Yesterday's draw left Murray in the more difficult of the two groups. His opponents will be Berdych, who has a good record against him, Djokovic, who has been the outstanding player since the US Open, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the big-hitting Frenchman who is always a favourite with British crowds.
There had been doubts about Djokovic's participation because of his father's health problems, but the Serb has been in London since Thursday. With Djokovic in his group, it will be especially important for Murray to make a winning start against Berdych.
"There's always pressure in any big tournament you play," Murray said. "Maybe I feel a little bit more relaxed this year than I have felt in previous years because of winning the US Open, but there will be pressure on me to do well here. I can only guarantee that I'll give 110 per cent and fight hard in all of my matches."
The doubles tournament will feature Britain's Jonny Marray and Denmark's Freddie Nielsen, who this summer became the first wild-cards to win the men's doubles title at Wimbledon. Marray is looking for a new long-term partner as Nielsen wants to concentrate on singles.
Singles Group A
N Djokovic (Serbia, 25, world No 2)
A Murray (GB, 25, world No 3)
T Berdych (Cz Rep, 27, world No 6)
J-W Tsonga (France, 27, world No 7)
Singles Group B
R Federer (Switz, 31, world No 1)
D Ferrer (Spain, 30, world No 5)
J M del Potro (Arg, 24, world No 8)
J Tipsarevic (Serbia, 28, world No 9)
(draw to be made today): B and M Bryan (US); M Mirnyi (Belarus) and D Nestor (Canada); L Paes (India) and R Stepanek (Czech Republic); R Lindstedt (Sweden) and H Tecau (Romania); M Granollers and M Lopez (Spain); Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi (Pakistan) and J-J Rojer (Holland); M Bhupathi and R Bopanna (India); J Marray (GB) and F Nielsen (Denmark).
Afternoon (midday start): Doubles match followed by Murray v Berdych (not before 13.45). Evening (6pm start): Doubles match followed by Djokovic v Tsonga (not before 19.45).
Monday to Saturday: round-robin matches. Sunday 11 November: semi-finals. Monday 12 November: finals.
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