Andy Murray marked his first match on home turf since winning the US Open with a gritty 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Tomas Berdych in the ATP Tour Finals at London’s O2 Arena on Monday.
Murray was playing in front of a British audience for the first time since his dramatic final win against Novak Djokovic in New York in September and he rewarded the partisan crowd with a come from behind Group A success to kick off his latest bid to win the season-ending event.
The 25-year-old, who has never been past the semi-finals of the Tour Finals in four previous attempts, made a slow start against Czech fifth seed Berdych in the tournament’s opening match.
But, after failing to convert any of his first 10 break-point chances, Murray finally found his rhythm in the second set and was able to ease to the finish line in just over two hours.
“It was very tough from the start. Berdych has had a great year. I have played him a few times and every time it has been tough,” Murray said.
“It’s one last push for the end of the year and having so many people watching helps with the adrenaline.
“If you can you need to treat it like a knockout event because if you win the first two matches you usually go through (to the semi-finals).”
Murray is the first British man for 76 years to win a Grand Slam and a maiden triumph at the Tour Finals would be a fitting finale to a remarkable campaign which also including winning the singles gold medal at the London Olympics and reaching a first Wimbledon final.
He entered the O2 Arena to a rapturous reception that reflected the British sporting public’s new-found admiration for a player who had previously struggled to win them over.
Even the crowd’s energy couldn’t lift Murray at the start. Since his breakthrough in Manhattan, Murray has suffered something of a let-down, losing the Shanghai final to Djokovic despite holding five match-points and then crashing out of the Paris Masters against Polish qualifier Jerzy Janowicz.
He wasted two break points in the first game here before squandering another three in the fifth game.
Berdych made the Scot pay for those lapses as he landed the first break for a 4-2 lead after Murray netted a forehand on the run.
The Czech had to save two break points as he served for the set before finally taking it on his second set point.
Murray was under pressure again at the start of the second set when Berdych earned three break points, but the 2010 Wimbledon runner-up couldn’t deliver the knockout blow.
Boosted by that escape, Murray finally converted his first break point at the 11th attempt when Berdych blazed a forehand long in the fourth game and that proved the turning point.
The Scot went on to take the set with ease and made the decisive break in the third game of the final set when Berdych lashed a wild groundstroke way off target.