(November 19, 2016) Semifinal wins by Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic have set up a showdown for year-end No. 1 in the final of the ATP World Tour Finals in London’s O2 Arena on Sunday. This will mark the first time that the two top players will play for the year-end No. 1 spot in the last match of the season.
“I must say that I’m very honored to be part of the history,” Djokovic said. “I hear this is the first time in the history of the ATP that the two best players are deciding the rankings in the last match. That is something we should all be conscious of.
“I’m excited to go out on the court and battle.”
Top seed Murray won another marathon match, this time 3 hours and 38 minutes and saved a match in his 5-7, 7-6(5), 7-6(9) win over Milos Raonic. This was the longest ever three-set match at the ATP World Tour Finals. It will be the first time that the Scot has reached the year-end final.
“I don’t know how I’ll feel tomorrow,” Murray said. Obviously tired just now because it was a really hard match. It wasn’t just that it was physically hard, it was mentally a tough match, too. It was pretty stressful.
“I was quite far behind obviously in the second set. A set and a break down, managed to turn it round. Then it was back and forth in the third set.
“The physical side, obviously the body is a bit sore after such a long match, but mentally it was tiring, too.”
“I think it was pretty dramatic. Both of us had chances. In the tiebreak, I think we played some pretty good stuff in the tiebreak. I don’t think it was, like, bad points that we were losing or bad shots we were losing. As points, I think we played some good stuff in the breaker.
“But, yeah, I mean, it was one of the tougher matches I played this year. For sure it was not easy, for the reasons I gave, obviously with it being very long, but also mentally tiring as well. The nature of it was very up and down.”
“I have to be proud that I finished the year with giving it every ounce of energy I had,” said the Canadian. “I’m pretty sure I’m going to feel like crap tomorrow.
“I’ll look back at 2016 with a lot of good moments, a lot of pride, a lot to be proud of.”
“The best match I’ve ever competed, yes,” explained Raonic. “I don’t know necessarily playing-wise. I don’t think I necessarily served phenomenal throughout the match, these kinds of things.
“But the way I was constantly trying to stay positive, keep my energy up, trying to fight through, that’s definitely the most significant thing I’ve done today.”
Raonic will finish the season at a career high No. 3.
“Well, I fought really hard today, yeah,” Murray said. “I fought hard. I fought very hard this week. I have also the last few months, too.
“It would have been easy today when I was behind to have gone away a little bit, but I didn’t. I fought hard. Even after serving for the match twice, having a bunch of match points in the tiebreak, still stayed tough, chased balls down, fought as best as I could. It was enough to get me the win.”
The victory extended Murray’s winning streak to 22.
No. 2 Djokovic’s task was much easier. The Serb needed only 66 minutes to dismiss Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-1. The man from Japan could only hold his serve once during the match.
“Yes, I mean, the best performance of the tournament came really at the right time,” he said. “Everything kind of clicked together tonight.
“I felt really well. I started with a great pace, great concentration, dictating the play, mixing up the pace. Everything was going well. I must be very pleased. I enjoyed myself.
“On the other hand, you know, Kei was not obviously close to his best. The fact that he played late last night, it’s been a long year for him, long tournament, so he was probably a little bit tired.
“Nevertheless, I tried to make myself present on the court, make him feel that I’m playing till the last shot, which I did. Even 6-1, 5-1, I was really committed.
“All in all it was a really good performance. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s final.”
“I think Novak played pretty awesome,” said Nishikori. “Well, nothing I can complain. But I wasn’t ready to play against Novak I think physically.
“Well, yeah, I tried to play good tennis, but I couldn’t today.”
The 2014 US Open finalist will end the year at No. 5
“I think it was one of the best year for me. Play a lot of matches, you know, beating those top players this year a lot. I get a lot of confidence this year.
“Maybe this is not the finish what I wanted to finish, but still I think it was good year.”
“As I said at the beginning of this tournament, concerning the rankings situation, I actually have things in my hands,” Djokovic said. “I don’t need to depend on anybody else. That’s all I’ve been focusing on, to be honest, really building my game, getting myself to a higher level, quality level of tennis in each match. As I progress through the tournament, that’s what’s happening. Hopefully I’ll be able to stick with it and perform as well as I did in last couple of matches tomorrow.
“Andy, you cannot take anything away from what he did in the last four, five months. Yes, we haven’t played against each other, but his level was phenomenal. He deserves to be in the situation where he is at the moment. He’s No. 1 of the world, and deservedly so.
“He’s had 20-plus matches won. He got himself out of trouble today because of that confidence. He really has been winning a lot.”
“I’m sure, even though he has had a couple of very long matches in the last couple days, I doubt that he’s going to feel tired. I know that he’s very fit. He’s committed to the working ethics. He’s going to do everything to recover and to be ready for tomorrow.”
Djokovic goes into Sunday’s final having won 22 of 23 matches in the O2 Arena.
“I’ve had lots of success on this court in the last five, six years,” said the 12-time major winner. “Every time I step on the court, I relive certain kind of memories from the years before. 80% of the guys that I get to play year after year are more or less the same. That gives me that comfort. But it’s not something that decides the match. I’ll say it that way.”
Djokovic leads in the head-to-head record against Murray 24-10. The Serb is seeking his sixth year-end title, while Murray is in the final for the first time.