You would think that, after four nights of uncompetitive singles tennis at the ATP World Tour Finals, the London crowd would not take kindly to another round-robin rout. Yet applause cascaded from the heights of the O2 Arena, and not a boo or whistle was audible, as Great Britain’s own Andy Murray lost the first set of his final round-robin match—along with any chance at reaching the semifinals—6-0 to Roger Federer.
The power of Fed is something to behold.
But even the Brits have their limits. When Murray dropped another three games on the trot, then struck a woeful double fault, their frustration could be felt—to say nothing of Murray’s own. But we didn’t see Murray’s caustic side, a staple when he isn’t playing well. In fact, we saw almost nothing resembling Andy Murray at all. In one of the most lopsided matches pitting a member of the Big Four against another, Murray avoided the double-bagel at the last possible moment before it mercifully ended 6-0, 6-1.
“I knew I was qualified [for the semifinals], so maybe I went into the match maybe a bit more relaxed,” said Federer after his 56-minute mauling. “It’s not the way I thought it was going to go, but there’s always next year for Andy.”
Murray was dreadful in this one, there’s no other way to put it. At one point, Federer had won eight games, and Murray had won 11 points. The Scot’s shots had no authority to them, he played deep into the blue river beyond the baseline, and his always-shaky second serve was exposed. Murray had to win this match in straight sets to reach the weekend. He pretty much did the exact opposite.
“I think i just really picked apart his game,” admitted Federer. “I didn’t even really serve that well, but from the baseline I had the upper hand.”
But it was also a vintage performance from the veteran, recalling some of his finest displays at season-ending championships past. With Murray his foil, Federer still managed to make a near-shutout worth watching. His forehand commanded Murray to any area of the court he decreed—and if Murray got it back, well, he’d just hit another one. Federer was ruthlessly efficient on serve, starting nearly every game 30-0, and took similar advantages in return games thanks to Murray’s lapses. He defied age, yet again, and the prevailing opinion that Murray would come out with more to prove.
It was so impressive that, in an odd way, the crowd might have gotten its money’s worth.