Hidden behind the artistic beauty of Roger Federer’s tennis lurks the primal instinct of a cold-hearted killer and on Thursday Andy Murray was the unwitting victim as he was hammered 6-0, 6-1 in his own backyard.
Already assured of a place in the semi-finals of the ATP World Tour Finals after Kei Nishikori’s three-set win in Group B earlier in the day, Federer only required a set against Murray to top the standings. He managed that objective in 24 spellbinding minutes, allowing former Wimbledon champion Murray only eight points in the opening set, then went in pursuit of a rare ‘double bagel’ — the nickname for a tennis whitewash.
At 6-0, 5-0 and 30-0 ahead on Murray’s serve the O2 crowd, many of whom were in the Federer camp, held its breath. Swiss maestro Federer then missed a relatively easy volley and Murray somehow clawed his way to a game.
Federer ended Murray’s torment a game later and will now go in search of a seventh season-ending title to cap a remarkable comeback year for the 33-year-old after a disappointing 2013 when his powers appeared on the wane.
Tournament debutant Nishikori deservedly joins Federer in the last four as Group B runner-up after beating alternate David Ferrer 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 in the day’s first singles. Ferrer was a late replacement for Milos Raonic after the Canadian withdrew on Thursday morning with a leg injury and almost inevitably the dogged Spaniard ensured the first three-set match of a round-robin phase littered with easy wins.
For Murray, his year ended in crushing fashion. “Everything he tried tonight came off,” Murray, still sweating, said minutes after coming off court. “It’s not a nice way to finish the year.” Strangely, Murray was 0-30 ahead on Federer’s opening service game and was then involved in a sensational baseline rally that ended when he netted a forehand. From that moment on Federer took control as only he can.
Sympathy for Murray
Striking nonchalant winners from the baseline, teasing his quarry with drop shots and lobs and flashing away volleys, the points raced by in a blur with Murray’s head spinning. The only sympathy seven-time Wimbledon champion Federer appeared to show Murray was afterwards, as he spoke on court.
“Clearly I’m very happy to play a good match today,” he said. “I knew I was qualified so maybe I went in more relaxed. It’s not the way I thought it was going to go but there’s always next year for Andy, hopefully he’ll have a good season.” Federer said it was an almost perfect performance, but he was not too upset at losing the penultimate game.
“Yeah, not so cool because I wouldn’t want to be in that position,” he said. “I was happy to get it done. At the end I was happy I didn’t win the second to last game to be quite honest. It’s uncomfortable. I don’t know. I don’t like it.”
Federer is the only player to win 6-0, 6-0 in the history of the tournament — in 2005 against Gaston Gaudio in Shanghai — and his emphatic victory Thursday continued the run of one-sided group matches at this year’s version in London. Djokovic had beat Cilic 6-1, 6-1 and Wawrinka battered Berdych by the same score.