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Murray left sidelined despite edging Verdasco

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Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:51

Andy Murray’s bid to qualify for the semi-finals of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals ended in dramatic fashion when Juan Martin del Potro beat Roger Federer in three sets to edge the world No.4 into third place in Group A by a single game.

The Argentine’s defeat meant that Murray’s scrappy three-hour 6-4 6-7(4) 7-6(3) victory over Fernando Verdasco, his second three-set win in the group, was not enough to see him through

The result, which eliminated the Spaniard after his third three-set defeat in Group A, meant Murrays two wins and defeat to Federer could still see him fail to progress, should del Potro post a three-set win against the world No.1 in the group’s final match.

Murray was always on top in his rematch with the Spaniard who had inflicted a stunning 2-6 6-1 1-6 6-3 6-4 fourth round defeat on the world No.4 at the Australian Open, where the Scot had been the pre-tournament favourite.

But the knowledge that he guaranteed a semi-final spot should he beat the Spaniard in straight sets seemed to distract the world No.4, who failed to impose his game on Verdasco, and after losing the second set with a double fault at the end of the tie-break, his fate was taken out of his hands regardless of the result.

From the off Murray struggled on serve as he had against Federer, landing just 47% of his first serves in the first set and hitting four double faults. Despite that, the Scot still held comfortably throughout the opener.

More concerning was his wastefulness with a host of break point chances. The Scot finally broke with his fifth break point in game nine when Verdasco tied himself in knots trying to play a backhand drop volley.

Murray held to take the set and brought up three more break points at the start of the second, but even with Verdasco now struggling with his own serve the Spaniard denied him the chance to get his nose in front.

Another four chances went begging when, with Murray serving at 4-5, a pair of double faults sent Verdasco on the way to his first break point of the match and a set point to boot but the Scot suddenly found three huge 130mph-plus service winners to hold firm.

Having both held to reach a tiebreak, Murray was made to pay for a string of errors as Verdasco, who entered the match bottom of Group A, found the mark with his booming forehand at just the right time to bring up two more set points, claiming the first when Murray netted a baseline half-volley.

A visibly frustrated Murray saw another break point pass him by in the third as the prospect of a shock defeat forced him to focus on holding his own service games, which rarely came under threat as the match lurched towards a second tiebreak.

This time it was Murray who took control as Verdasco faltered, double-faulting to hand the Scot a 5-2 lead. Murray clenched every sinew as he half-crouched in celebration after the Spaniard dragged a forehand wide on his first match point.

“I needed to win the match – I had to focus on that,” said Murray, aware that the three-set scoreline left him vulnerable. “I knew if I won the match, then there was only one way that I couldn’t go through, so I just had to focus on winning. Then there’s a very slim chance of me going out.”

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