Andy Murray edged a step closer to his end of year aim to make the Barclay's ATP World Tour Finals next month, by beating Spaniard Tommy Robredo in an epic three setter at the Valencia Open at the weekend. After his exertions in beating another Spanish player, David Ferrer in the semis, Murray would have hoped for a smoother victory than it ended up being as the match clock finally stopped at three hours and 20 minutes, the longest tour final this year.
The 'Brit'(who is often jokingly referred to as a 'Scot' when his form dips) had to dig deep for his latest success as five match points had to be saved first. In echoes of the final at the Shenzhen Open in China in September where the same two players slugged it out, in Valencia it was Robredo who again ended up buckling as Murray ran out the 3-6, 7-6, 7-6 winner.
It was Murray's third win in just five weeks (the other was in Vienna) as he sought to push himself up the rankings to ensure a place among the top eight that will participate in the Finals. His position looks a lot stronger now, but it is testament to the strength on the men's tour that a number of others are still harbouring genuine ambitions of their own of making it through even at this late stage in the qualifying process. Murray rose to fifth in the 'race' to get to London's O2 Arena for the prestigious event and with Rafael Nadal seemingly already out of the event (currently third in the 'race'), as he seems destined to commit to surgery for a troublesome appendix, Britain's number one must be breathing a little more easily now. He can not relax too much though as six men are still in the battle for the four remaining spots up for grabs, the final eight being confirmed at the conclusion of the Paris Masters tournament this week.
Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka are already confirmed for London, given the ranking points they have amassed so far this calendar year, with Marin Cilic added to that list whether he stays in the top eight or not (he currently lies seventh). Cilic holds the 'trump card' of being current US Open Champion, which ensures his place. Besides Murray, Kei Nishikori (only thirty points behind Murray), Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer, Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov all have a chance.
Murray may be feeling a little fatigued from his recent exertions, having already played five consecutive tournaments and amassed plenty of court time with twenty matches over little more than a month. Indeed, he looked physically drained at the conclusion of the match in Spain, although his 31st career title was some recompense for his efforts. He will hope that he remains free of the back problems of the past over the coming month and that his recent heavy workload does not come back to haunt him should he make London.
Initially, he will hope to find yet more energy to ensure he maintains his ranking position after Paris (with a quarter-final place there guaranteeing his London date), as all the players still in contention will be competing for a massive 1000 points (twice as many as Valencia) for the winner of the event. The runners up consolation (besides a sizeable cheque) is still considerable at 600 points. Mathematically speaking, the Brit could yet drop out of the placings, but it seems unlikely given the permutations that would need to occur, and a more likely scenario is that Raonic and Dimitrov will just miss out. #Tennis