LONDON • Andy Murray has to beat Stan Wawrinka today to stay in tennis' ATP World Tour Finals after losing 4-6, 1-6 to Rafael Nadal on Wednesday, when he angrily denied that he was trying to avoid Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals.
The Spaniard produced one of his best performances of the year at the 17,800-capacity O2 Arena, while Murray's game collapsed in front of a home crowd.
The Briton, who bizarrely trimmed his fringe during a changeover, won only 10 per cent of points on his second serve in the second set, and a nine-point losing streak virtually sealed his fate.
When it was put to him that his defeat might have been an unexpected bonus if he ends up avoiding Djokovic tomorrow, Murray bridled. And when it was suggested it might be easier to play 17-time Major champion Roger Federer than the world No. 1 in the semi-finals, he interrupted his inquisitor to point out neither opponent was exactly a pushover.
"I don't think that's a question, that's your opinion," said the world No. 2. "You're basically telling me that the format is wrong. I think that Roger plays great in this event. He's won it, what, six times, played some unbelievable matches here. He obviously played great tennis yesterday (when he beat Djokovic).
I DON'T PLAY TO LOSE
I'm trying to win every match I play. I hope that's how all of the players view it.
ANDY MURRAY, on accusations that he was happy to lose in order to avoid a possible clash with Novak Djokovic
"I'm not trying to finish second in the group. I'm trying to win every match I play. I hope that's how all of the players view it. Some people might have different opinions.
"That's fine if you have a different opinion to me. I don't think it's right to tell me that the format is wrong, that I would rather finish second than first, when that's not true in my mind."
Nadal, however, will top the Ilie Nastase group no matter what happens today.
His progress into the semi-finals could have been held up had David Ferrer beaten Wawrinka later on Wednesday. But having led 5-2 in the first set and having a set point, the Spaniard succumbed, losing 5-7, 2-6 to the Swiss world No. 4 and has no chance of advancing.
Having failed to win a Grand Slam title for the first year since 2004, and temporarily sliding to 10th in the world rankings, the naysayers have been out in force predicting Nadal's demise.
But the 14-time Major champion continued his recent renaissance against world No. 2 Murray, ripping forehands to all corners of the court and moving smoothly.
"For me to be able to play at that level against such a great player is good news," said the 29-year-old world No. 5.
"Happy for that. I just want to try to keep working the same way to keep confirming that I am in the completely right direction. Today, I felt free. I was enjoying on court."
REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN
ATP WORLD TOUR FINALS
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