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Murray beats Nishikori in epic

Sky Sports logo Sky Sports 17-11-2016 skysports.com
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Andy Murray improved his chances of making the semi-finals of the ATP World Tour Finals for the first time in four years after a record-breaking contest against Kei Nishikori in London. 

Not since his debut in 2008, when the tournament was held in Shanghai, has the Scot won both of his opening two matches and his stunning 6-7 (9-11) 6-4 6-4 victory over Nishikori will be enough for a first last-four appearance since 2012 should he come through against Stan Wawrinka on Friday.

This was the fourth meeting of the year between the pair, with Murray having won easily at the Olympics but enduring long five-set tussles with Nishikori in the Davis Cup and at the US Open, where he came out second best.

And the Briton rose to the occasion once again, after his victory over Cilic, to defeat Japan's finest in the longest ever match at the season-ending tournament, lasting three hours and 20 minutes.

Shot of the match

Murray showed remarkable powers of recovery with a moment of pure genius to be in the right place at the right time to save a third set point in an opening set tiebreak with this attacking winner from the tightest of angles. It was reminiscent of his winning effort to win the Rome Masters earlier this year against Novak Djokovic.

Expert analysis

Sky Sports' Peter Fleming: "He's the world No 1 and you don't get to that position without having incredible resolve and will and reserve of mental and emotional stamina. He is a great physical athlete, hits the ball beautifully and his backhand is incredible, but it was just his willingness to keep going and his willingness to butt heads with Nishikori.

"Mentally and emotionally, it might be more of a strain for him to recover than physically. Knowing what is at stake, I think it will be quite easy for him to get up for the rest of his matches here."

The match

There were no less than 17 breaks of serve during their US Open encounter but Nishikori, who could yet finish the year ranked No 3, failed to capitalise on those offered on a plate during an opening set lasting 85 minutes, including 40 unforced errors.

After a slow-burner of an opening with both men failing to take opportunities to break, the first set tiebreak lit the blue touchpaper.

Murray was forced to produce a remarkable reflex winner from an impossible angle to save a third set point at 6-3. But ultimately the Scot failed take any of his three opportunities created, while the 26-year-old broke his resistance at the fifth time of asking when, not for the first time, Murray missed a forehand to stun the home support.

That only inspired Murray, who started his fightback with an immediate response in the opening game of the next set. A re-energised Nishikori broke back in the eighth game, but the 29-year-old struck immediately back to send the match into a decider.

Wimbledon and Olympic champion Murray took advantage of a lucky net cord in the third game to move ahead in the match and he quickly forged ahead by making it a double break advantage.

Although Nishikori, who reached the 2014 semi-finals on his debut at the season finale, showed commendable resolve to win three on the spin, but it was the world No 1 who held his nerve to seal a famous win after a tense final game.

Murray was in the ice bath immediately afterwards and his powers of recovery will be put to the test over the next few days with Wawrinka waiting on Friday followed by a likely semi-final with big-hitting Canadian Milos Raonic.

The victory made it 21 in a row for the Scot, who needs to match Djokovic's performance this week to ensure he holds onto top spot until the end of the year.

Murray's win means he has 11,585 points to Djokovic's 11,180 but with 275 Davis Cup points to come off the Briton's total there is still everything to play for.

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