Roddick is no match for Murray
Tuesday 11 November 2008
Not bad work if you can get it. Andy Murray made a winning debut in the Masters Cup here yesterday and, in beating Andy Roddick 6-4, 1-6, 6-1, added $450,000 (about £287,000) to his booming bank balance. On this form you would not bet against the world No 4 earning another $1.2m (£765,000) by going on to win the end-of-season showpiece undefeated, especially after Roger Federer made a losing start when he was beaten 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 by France's Gilles Simon.
Apart from a loose second set, Murray played with the verve and confidence of a man who has earned more ranking points than anyone over the last four months. The British No 1 served with variety, returned superbly against one of the best servers in the game (Roddick put 78 per cent of his first serves in court) and hit a succession of passing shot winners.
At times Roddick was made to look ordinary. Frustrated by Murray's consistent assault on his suspect backhand, the American repeatedly charged the net, only to volley without conviction or watch powerless as the ball flew past him down either flank.
It was a hugely impressive performance by Murray on his debut in a tournament that requires a different mindset to any other. This is the only round robin event on the men's calendar and throws you in against the best players from the very start, while the atmosphere in the Qi Zhong Stadium is different to almost anywhere else.
The surface and humidity make for a surprisingly slow court, while the crowd's reactions are unlike those of European or American audiences. The biggest cheers are reserved for big smashes or fast serves rather than moments of subtlety and skill.
Perhaps it was no surprise that the crowd seemed to favour Roddick, though Murray had his supporters. There were a few Union flags and saltires dotted around the stadium and the most distinctive voice was that of the Scot's mother, Judy, whose cries of "Come on, Andy!" bounced around the 15,000-capacity arena.
Having comfortably held his serve twice thanks to five aces, Murray broke to lead 3-2 when he cracked a forehand passing shot cross-court winner after Roddick advanced behind a moderate approach.
After serving out for the first set Murray immediately created a break point with an exquisite drop shot at the start of the second, but Roddick held on and won five games in a row as the Scot's serve and returns faltered. Normal service was resumed in the decider, however, as Murray responded in kind by winning the first five games and converting his first match point with a backhand winner.
The match lasted just over an hour and a half, meaning Murray was earning at the rate of £3,000 a minute. He earned $100,000 for taking part in the tournament, which also secured his $250,000 end-of-year bonus as world No 4, and banked another $100,000 for the victory. Roddick has now lost five of his seven matches against Murray. "There's no question that he's improved this year," Roddick said. "He's very confident right now. That's probably the main difference. He could always play tennis and he's always had his choice of many shots at any given time."
Murray said he felt tired by the end but added: "I felt like I played well. The legs don't have the snap in them that they had a few months ago, but I'll do my best to recover for the next match."
That will be against Simon, who took advantage of a tentative display by Federer to win after going a set and a break down. The defending champion, who has had little chance to practise following the back injury that forced him out of the recent Paris Masters, made 50 unforced errors, including 31 on his famed forehand, and took only two of 10 break points.
The format of the tournament is such that nothing will be decided in the next round of matches, though the probability is that the winner of Murray-Simon would go through while the loser between Federer and Roddick would be on his way out.
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