Andy Murray goes for a sixth straight win against Tomas Berdych, who can more or less secure qualification for London with a victory over Murray in Friday’s BNP Paribas Masters quarterfinals.
Murray vs Berdych BNP Paribas Masters tennis is live from Paris on Friday at 7.30pm local/6.30pm GMT. Watch and bet on tennis live from Paris at bet365 > live streaming > tennis
Andy Murray continues his campaign to wrest the world no. 1 ranking from Novak Djokovic’s hands, while Tomas Berdych tries to preserve his hopes of reaching the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. Only one man’s dreams will survive Friday’s BNP Paribas Masters quarterfinal clash in Paris.
Actually, it’s over-egging it slightly to describe Murray’s hopes of taking the no. 1 ranking this week as his ‘dream’. The quest to become the world’s top-ranked player has certainly been the British player’s ambition of late and has fueled a resurgence when it looked like a strong season might be in danger of getting off-track. The desire to close the gap on Novak Djokovic in the rankings has certainly been a major factor in Murray shaking off a quarterfinal defeat to Kei Nishikori at the US Open and a fatigued loss to Juan Martin del Potro in Davis Cup, and embarking on a winning streak – currently standing at 18 matches – which has seen him take the Beijing, Shanghai and Vienna titles and come through to the Paris quarterfinals.
But Murray was clear at the beginning of the week: He may have given himself a mathematical chance to take the no. 1 ranking in Paris by winning the title, but the outcome is not entirely in his hands (Djokovic can keep the no. 1 ranking by making the final) and he never set himself the goal of overtaking Djokovic in 2016. He wanted to finish the year strong and give himself the best possible chance to challenge for the ranking in early 2017.
It’s all a good psychological defense against the pressure that’s being heaped on him, and certainly it’s gone decently well in Paris so far: Murray had to work very hard against Fernando Verdasco on Wednesday, eventually subduing the Spanish player 6-3, 6-7(5), 7-5, but his 6-3, 6-0 defeat of Lucas Pouille in just 72 minutes on Thursday really couldn’t have gone much better. It helped that Pouille seems to have absolutely no idea how to play effectively against Murray – he lashed out fairly randomly at the ball and consequently made far too many unforced errors – but given that Murray has played 19 matches since the US Open to Djokovic’s six, a quick match against less than resolute opposition can only be a good thing.
‘I thought I returned well today. I had chances in almost all of his service games during the match,’ Murray said. ‘Obviously that’s good when the surface is a bit quicker. I was getting a good hit on them and rushing him immediately.’
Tomas Berdych (Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Returning well will be absolutely crucial to Murray’s hopes for success as he takes on Tomas Berdych, altogether a sterner challenge than Pouille, in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Berdych has everything to play for, as the tall Czech is trying to keep alive his hopes of qualifying for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals for the seventh consecutive year. With Marin Cilic qualifying for London on Thursday, the battle is now between Berdych, Dominic Thiem (already out of Paris) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (who has also made the quarterfinals in Paris). If Berdych beats Murray to make the semifinals and Tsonga doesn’t win the title – rather an unlikely contingency – then Berdych will be in London once more, so the Czech has absolutely every incentive to beat Murray on Friday.
A semifinalist at Wimbledon this year, Berdych has also won a 250-level title in Shenzhen and made the quarterfinals at the Australian and French Opens but he hasn’t reached a Masters 1000 Series semifinal all year. But Paris has been kind to Berdych in the past. His solitary Masters 1000 Series title came here back in 2005 (although the courts were different then), he has reached the semifinals twice in subsequent years and the news that the courts are quicker this year than they have been in recent years will only work in Berdych’s favour – the Czech has already shaken off a three-match losing streak to beat Joao Sousa and Gilles Simon to reach the quarterfinals.
Until quite recently, Berdych led the head-to-head against Murray, winning six of their first ten encounters. But since 2015, when Murray beat Berdych in four sets in an ill-tempered match at the Australian Open, it’s been all Murray. Currently on a five-match winning streak against the Czech, which includes wins in 2016 at the Madrid Masters and Wimbledon, Murray hasn’t even dropped a set to Berdych since that Australian Open meeting. Moreover, Murray has won the only two matches they have played indoors – in Basel in 2005 and at the World Tour Finals in 2012.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that Murray will win on Friday. Berdych certainly has every motivation to take Murray down, the court should suit his game and he does possess the raw power to take the initiative against the British player. He’s also much better rested than Murray, which is not an inconsiderable factor. This should be an extremely tough test for Murray, who will need to serve very well, return better and keep consistent pressure on Berdych’s game to make it to the Paris semifinals on Friday.
Murray vs Berdych is scheduled on Court Central in Paris on Friday at 7.30pm local/6.30pm GMT