• What the Deuce

Finale hots up as Murray and Djokovic prepare to clash

Jo Carter November 6, 2012
© PA Photos

The last time Andy Murray played on home soil, he was wearing Team GB colours, having made history with two Olympic medals round his neck in front of a euphoric crowd on Wimbledon's Centre Court.

Fast forward three months, and on a chilly Monday afternoon on the other side of London, Murray was back in action against Tomas Berdych at the ATP World Tour Finals.

It could hardly have been in starker contrast. From the elation of blitzing then world No. 1 Roger Federer on the court where the Swiss had a month earlier won a record-equalling seventh Wimbledon title, it was a subdued performance from the Scot, who had to rally from a set down to beat Tomas Berdych in his opener at the O2 Arena.

It was perhaps unreasonable to expect an electrifying homecoming for Murray, playing his first match in the UK after breaking his grand slam duck.

Let's not forget his last match in London was against the universally popular Federer; the man who has just been crowned the ATP Fans' Favourite for an astonishing tenth successive season, and is arguably the greatest player in history.

Instead he was drawn to face the robotic Berdych - tennis' answer to Kimi Raikkonen - whose systematic playing style is an extension of his personality, on the opening afternoon of the event.

On the day Murray played Federer in the London 2012 final, the country was buzzing after three gold medals for Team GB in the Olympic Stadium the night before.

On a glorious weekend for British sport, Murray added to the surging national pride by striking gold at SW19 - denying Federer in what was realistically his last shot at an Olympic (singles) gold medal.

In what has been a truly momentous year for British sport, Murray rode the crest of a wave all the way to the US Open, where he became the first British men's grand slam singles champion since Fred Perry back in 1936.

As organisers ditched the clich├ęd 'London Calling' as the players entered the court for the more contemporary 'Feel The Love' by Rudimental, the choice of music could not have been more appropriate as the British fans welcomed back the US Open champion.

"It was a good atmosphere," he said. "The last week of the year when everyone's tired, it's important to have that big crowd to give you that extra little push. It was good to be back playing in the UK."

But it was not all plain sailing for Murray. If the crowd expected the British No. 1 to cruise through his opener ahead of a showdown with Novak Djokovic later in the group stages, they were badly mistaken. Berdych had won four of his previous seven meetings against the Scot and took his chances well to win the opening set as Murray was left to rue seven unconverted break points.

In the end, Murray did manage to turn things around - a pivotal game early in the second set saw Berdych fumble a forehand on break point - Murray went on to hold serve and break his opponent in the subsequent game before eventually easing over the line.

After a low-key win over Berdych in his opener, things are likely to hot up quickly ahead of a mouthwatering clash with the world No. 1 on Wednesday, when a win against Djokovic could really see Murray rocking the O2.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Jo Carter Close
Jo Carter is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk