Murray beaten in London opener

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Published: Sunday 9th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Andy Murray left himself with a lot of work to do to reach the semi-finals of the ATP World Tour Finals after losing his opening match to Kei Nishikori.

The Scot, who missed the tournament last year following back surgery, was well below his best in a costly 6-4 6-4 loss at the O2 Arena.

Murray, who had never previously lost a set in three meetings against Nishikori, is now likely to have to beat Roger Federer and Milos Raonic to have a chance of making the last four.

Nishikori, one of three debutants at the eight-man event, was the more aggressive player and seized his chance impressively.

Murray admitted on Friday he might have to win some fans back after voicing his support for Scottish independence, but the reception he received from a full house could not have been warmer.

Nishikori is ranked one place above Murray at number five following his best season, the highlight being a run to the US Open final.

The Japanese, the first Asian singles player to qualify for the tournament, is one of the fastest movers and cleanest hitters on tour, but he made a very nervy start.

Nishikori served two double faults in the first game and saved a break point in the third before Murray finally took advantage to move 3-2 ahead.

But the Scot was also struggling to find his rhythm and promptly dropped serve to love, with double faults afflicting both men.

Murray had a chance to make it three straight breaks, but Nishikori held on and the two forehand winners he produced to clinch the game were a sign of things to come.

The 24-year-old began to look much more comfortable on the court and a fine forehand return winner gave him two set points in the 10th game.

Murray saved one, but then dumped a drop shot into the net on the second.

The British number one was playing a long way behind the baseline, allowing his opponent to dictate, and at the start of the second set it was clear any nerves were behind Nishikori.

He played a fine game to break Murray again early in the second set and the 27-year-old had to save three break points to avoid losing a sixth straight game.

It was a crucial foothold for Murray, who forced his opponent into two costly mistakes at the net to reclaim the break and trail 3-4.

Murray played six successive weeks across two continents to qualify for the tournament and there was an indication of the fatigue he must be feeling when he called the trainer to have his calf rubbed.

The momentum had swung a little, but Nishikori wrested it back by holding for 5-4, leaving Murray having to serve to stay in the match.

And, like in the first set, it proved a challenge he could not meet, Murray firing a wild backhand long to hand Nishikori victory on his first match point.

Published: Sunday 9th November 2014 by The News Editor

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