Place at top table suits Murray fine

Roger Federer treasures the memoryof his first Masters Cup appearance. "I love coming here, and being part of the top eight was an incredible thrill for me in 2002," the defending champion said here yesterday. "I was like a kid in a candy store."

Andy Murray, who makes his debut when he takes on Andy Roddick tomorrow, has been similarly wide-eyed since arriving last Wednesday. The leading men do not exactly have to slum it for the rest of the year, but the tournament organisers here do everything to make the players' exper-ience special, reinforcing the point that only the crème de la crème qualify for the elite eight-man field at the traditional end-of-season finale.

The players have their own driverfor the week, can practise when they want and have private locker rooms at the Qi Zhong Stadium. At night they retire to a luxurious hotel where even the dressing gowns and pillowcases are individually embroidered with their names.

"We get treated unbelievably well," Murray said. "Obviously at most of the tournaments the treatment is very good, but the way all of the players have been treated since we got here has been great. The hospitalityis awesome, and I've really enjoyed myself so far. Just to be around all the top players in the world is a really nice feeling. It's like a reward for the season that you've had."

The only empty seat at the top table is that of Rafael Nadal, who pulled out with a knee injury that could yet see the world No 1 miss next week's Davis Cup final against Argentina. The Spaniard's rivals queued up to defend his decision.

"Rafa has the year-end No 1 ranking all sealed up anyway, so would he have been coming here just to beat everyone's brains in again?" Roddick said. "He's also responsible to his team-mates and to his country, so I think it's the right decision."

Will Federer miss his great rival? "We're not dating, so no," the defending champion smiled. "But he's great for tennis and it's disappointing for the game that he's not here. I'm a tennis fan myself, and I hope he gets fit again soon."

While Federer cannot reclaim his world No 1 ranking this week, despite the fact that an undefeated winner here receives 750 points along with a cheque for $1.3m (about £824,000), the Swiss sees it as a chance to make inroads into Nadal's lead, provided there is no recurrence of the back injury that forced him to pull out of the recent Paris Masters. The label as world No 2 sits as uncomfortably on Federer's shoulders as did the hand-made suits on some of his rivals beforeyesterday's opening ceremony.

"I don't like the ring of it when I'm being introduced on the centre courts," Federer said. "Saying, 'This is theNo 2 in the world' sounds wrong to me. Either I'm No 1 or I'm a Grand Slam champion, but I'm not No 2. It sounds awkward because I've been up there for so long. It's a challenge to get back where I was, and next year will be a good chance. I'm going to try and do everything – starting here."

Murray, who is drawn in the tougher round-robin group alongside Federer,Roddick and Gilles Simon, is the man in form after a four-month spell in which he has won three titles, including two in the Masters Series, and reached the final of the US Open and the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.

"I've had a great season, my best year ever," the world No 4 said. "I'm a little bit tired but I'll try and play the best I can. If I do that then I'll be happy. Even if I lose all the matches, I'd still be happy, but I'd be disappointed if I didn't play well.

"I'm feeling pretty confident right now, though I'm not expecting to play my best tennis this week. It's been a long few weeks since Madrid, it's right at the end of the year and I've played a lot of matches."

Federer, who has won four of the past five Masters Cups, welcomed the fact that four of the field – Murray, Juan Martin del Potro, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Simon – are making their debuts. "The young players have made their move," he said. "Del Potro winning four straight tournaments is something that's very hard to do. I've never managed it. Murray definitely made his move right to the very top. Simon has had his breakthrough year, though not at Slam level, while Tsonga had that great start, got injured, but came back very strongly. He's exciting to watch. I love watching him play."

Tournament format

Two groups of four players, who all play three matches each, with the top two in each section progressing to the knockout semi-finals.

Red group

Roger Federer (Switzerland), Andy Murray (Britain), Andy Roddick (US), Gilles Simon (France).

Gold group

Novak Djokovic (Serbia), Nikolay Davydenko (Russia), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (France), Juan Martin del Potro (Argentina).

Today:

(06.00 GMT start): Djokovic v Del Potro, Davydenko v Tsonga.

Tomorrow:

(Not before 10.00): Federer v Simon; (not before midday): Murray v Roddick.

Prize money:

Participation fee: $100,000 (about £63,000). Each round-robin victory: $100,000 (and 100 ranking points). Semi-final winners: $315,000 (200 points). Final winner: $625,000 (250 points).

Undefeated champion: $1.34m (750 points).

Paul Newman

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone