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Murray loses London opener to Nishikori

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Originally published on 09/11/14

The Scot, who had won three titles in the autumn to qualify for the year-ending championships, was beaten 6-4 6-4 by Japan’s Kei Nishikori in a contest punctuated by regular errors on both sides of the net. Nishikori,  who had lost all three of his previous meetings with Murray, did at least have the excuse of first-day nerves, having never previously played in the tournament.

The 24-year-old Japanese improved in the latter stages, despite struggling with his serve throughout. He put only 46 per cent of his first serves in court and hit eight double faults.  Murray, despite making the first break of serve, took time to find any rhythm and by the time he did so it was too late. The world No 6 recovered well from 3-0 down in the second set to level at 4-4 but had left himself no margin for error.

“I didn't serve well enough,” Murray said afterwards. “That was the biggest difference in the match. And when you're not serving well, obviously on your own service games you want to be looking to dictate the points. When you're returning, you dictate when you have the opportunity. You don't always have the chance if someone's serving well.”

The pattern for the match was established when Nishikori made two double faults in his first service game. The Japanese had to save a break point in his second and was broken in his third after another double fault. In the following game, however, Murray dropped his own serve to love, courtesy of two double faults and a missed forehand and backhand. 

The standard of tennis at the start was poor, but from 3-3 Nishikori started to put his game together. Having saved another break point in the seventh game, the world No.5 went on the attack when Murray served to stay in the set. The Scot saved the first set point with some aggressive hitting from the baseline, but on the second put a lame attempt at a drop shot into the net.

Nishikori went 3-0 up in the second set and had points for a 4-0 lead. However, Murray held on and broke back in the seventh game after twice forcing his opponent into volley errors by drawing him into the net. Serving at 4-5, Murray went 15-40 down when he netted a backhand. On the first match point the Scot hit a backhand beyond the baseline to hand Nishikori victory after an hour and 35 minutes.

Roger Federer joins Nishikori at the top of Group B table after he opened his bid for a seventh season-ending title with victory over Milos Raonic. The world No.2 avenged his defeat to the Canadian in Paris with a 6-1 7-6(0) victory in an hour and 28 minutes.

"I think I played really well for probably one-and-a-half sets," Federer said. "It was good to get off to a good start like I did against him at Cincinnati and Wimbledon. I broke in the first game and sort of never looked back.

"Thankfully he didn't play quite so well like he did in Paris. He gave me a few shots here and there, especially at the beginning of the breaker. I think those were crucial. I was happy to bring it home because it was very close at the end of the second."

Federer will next face Nishikori, with Murray will bid to get back to winning ways against Raonic on Tuesday.

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