Tennis: Business as usual for Murray

Freshly-minted world No. 1 Andy Murray hitting a return during his 6-3, 6-2 straight-sets win over Marin Cilic of Croatia at the ATP World Tour Finals.
Freshly-minted world No. 1 Andy Murray hitting a return during his 6-3, 6-2 straight-sets win over Marin Cilic of Croatia at the ATP World Tour Finals.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Scot justifies top rank with swift dismissal of Cilic in first match at ATP World Tour Finals

LONDON • A new title maybe, but there is no chance of Andy Murray getting ahead of himself this week at the ATP World Tour Finals - especially with Ivan Lendl in his corner.

A week after officially taking over as world No. 1 for the first time, the Scot just did on Monday what he tends to do with relentless efficiency these days - win tennis matches.

The 29-year-old emerged to huge cheers from the sell-out 17,000 crowd but, clearly in business-like mood, he responded with only a shy wave.

World No. 7 Marin Cilic of Croatia put up a good fight and played some eye-catching tennis at the O2 Arena but walked off scratching his head after a 6-3, 6-2 defeat.

"It's a great atmosphere and I think I played one of my best matches here. I'm going to keep working hard to give people moments like this," Murray said.

"I have confidence from winning matches and I was a little bit more solid when I had opportunities."

The two-time Olympic gold medallist, who has now won 20 consecutive matches, added that talk of his rise to the tennis summit has been conspicuous by its absence since getting together with task-master Lendl this week.

"We haven't spoken about it," Murray, who clinched the top ranking at the Paris Masters, said.

"We spoke on the phone about it. But since we've been here, I haven't spoken with the team about it, not once."

Murray's insatiable appetite will not be satisfied until the year-end No. 1 ranking is in the bag - an honour achieved by only Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the last 12 years.

Deposed top dog Djokovic could snatch the top rung back if he performs better than Murray in London, but Cilic believes that with the momentum the Scot has, he will take some stopping.

"It's a long way to go still. We'll see definitely how things are going to play out," the Croat said.

"But just for Andy, I feel maybe he's a little bit more motivated, obviously.

"When you are winning that much, it's easier to prepare and go with a new level of tennis."

Murray fought off a succession of break points in the opening set and although he did drop his serve, he replied with two breaks of the Cilic delivery to take the set in 45 minutes.

The battle-hardened Scot broke in the fifth game of the second set with a belting forehand and again two games later.

"A little bit unfortunate to go 6-3, 6-2. I felt it was much, much closer in the first set, beginning of the second," Cilic said.

Murray will be up against Japan's Kei Nishikori today while Cilic faces the US Open winner Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2016, with the headline 'Business as usual for Murray'. Print Edition | Subscribe