Murray in must-win match with Milos Raonic in ATP Finals Group B
Rising Japan star Kei Nishikori inflicted a straightforward defeat on Andy Murray in the opening match of the ATP World Tour Finals, but the outcome was perhaps not that surprising after a hectic recent schedule.
The Scot enjoyed a superb run up to this competition, winning three titles in six weeks to confirm his place for the event at London’s O2 Arena, but he had to play a total of 23 matches in that time.
But it is not all over for 16/1 title fifth-favourite Murray, as he still faces two more Group B tests, with Milos Raonic (50/1) next up. However, the British number one has a losing 1-3 record (not counting walkovers) against the tall Canadian, who is a decent 13/8 chance to beat Murray again.
Their last two head-to-heads have gone to three sets in favour of Raonic, so back him at 7/2 to win 2-1 once more.
New world number six Murray, though, is still the odds-on favourite with Coral at 1/2 for victory, and is a more enticing 5/4 to do so in straight sets, as he did at the 2012 US Open against Montenegrin-born Raonic. This match is on the same surface, albeit indoors.
Following Murray’s loss to Nishikori, he wrote in his BBC Sport column: “It’s disappointing to start with a loss at such a big tournament but I’m still in the competition, and it just gives me another challenge at the end of a tough year.
“The ATP World Tour Finals are for the top eight players, so I wouldn’t go into any match just expecting to win, and Kei Nishikori has had a great year.
“I felt good in practice but sometimes it doesn’t happen for you out on the match court, and after a 6-4 6-4 defeat, now I have to try and win my next two matches – and win them well.
“I’ll need to play better than I did on Sunday if I’m going to extend my week at the O2,” Murray added. “That’s the nice thing about the round-robin though – if this was another event I’d be going home, but I still have an opportunity to get back into the tournament.”
Nishikori next faces Raonic’s conqueror in his first battle of tournament, Roger Federer. The duo have each won twice in their four meetings, so expect another tight encounter.
Swiss number one and record six-time World Tour Finals champion Federer (11/4 for his seventh) beat the Japanese youngster in straight sets in both his victories against him. He is odds-on at 2/5 to win, and 11/10 2-0 again.
Nishikori (8/1 tournament chance), meanwhile, needed three sets to beat the 17-time Grand Slam champion in both his victories over him. He is, therefore, 2/1 to defeat him once more, and 4/1 to do so 2-1.