Even at the best of times, Andy Murray makes tennis look like hard work. Against Roger Federer on Wednesday, he looked positively frazzled. Unable to get into any sort of rhythm, the Briton lost 4-6, 2-6 in his second Group B match at the ATP World Tour finals.
Coming off a five-week break, Rafael Nadal struggled to find his match form. But on Tuesday night, it was the Spaniard's spirit that proved more lethal than his forehand as he squeezed out of a close clash against Andy Roddick 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4.
The score made Federer look emphatic. But the world No.2 was the first to admit that he was "shocked" with the ease at which Murray rolled over. So were the 17,000 odd people who turned up in what was touted as the match of the tournament.
Sending down 26 unforced errors, and making only 43 per cent of the first serves, Murray headed to a quick defeat.
"I served poorly and returned poorly, and those really are the basics in tennis. And when you do that against a player like Roger that’s the scoreline you get," said Murray. He lost his serve in the second game of the first set, and the first two games of the second set, easing all the pressure off Federer.
Federer, who following this match, has dropped only 11 games in the first two matches and has as good as sealed a semi-final spot. Murray, who beat Robin Soderling in his opening match, will next face David Ferrer.
Nadal had exited the tournament last year without even winning a set. And up until an hour into his match against Roddick, it looked like the trend would continue. The American was firing aces at will, keeping Nadal on the edge and making him commit errors.
At a set and break up he looked like walking away with an upset win. That's when he blinked. Fourth game, standing at 30-all, Roddick served a double fault; his only one of the second set.
Nadal pounced on the break opportunity, again, his only one of the second set.
While Roddick stayed firm on his serve for the rest of the set, Nadal had started making those little assertive movements. He blunted Roddick's serve in the tie-breaker, making two fighting returns that caught the American off-guard. Closing out the tie-breaker 7-5, the belief was back in Nadal's game.