Andy Murray knocked out of World Tour Finals at 02
ATP World Tour Finals Venue: O2 Arena, London Date: 22-29 November Tournament coverage: Live on BBC Two, 28/29 November, 1415/1430 GMT; every match live on BBC Radio 5 live/5 live sports extra; live text commentaries on BBC Sport website; live coverage every day on Sky Sports
Murray edged out Verdasco but still exited the tournament
By Piers Newbery
BBC Sport at the O2 Arena
Andy Murray went out of the ATP World Tour Finals in bizarre fashion as the group stage came down to the percentage of games won.
The Briton beat Fernando Verdasco 6-4 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-3) in his final round-robin match but was undone when Juan Martin del Potro saw off Roger Federer 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 in Thursday's evening match.
There were farcical scenes at the end of that encounter as Del Potro waited to hear if he had qualified, and the watching Murray was equally bewildered.
"Anyone know what's going on?" he told his Twitter page. "I think I'm audi [out] but the rules aren't worded too well."
The result actually meant that Federer had won Group A, with Del Potro edging out Murray by a single game.
DRAMA AS IT UNFOLDED
1730: Andy Murray beats Fernando Verdasco
2047: Juan Martin del Potro and Roger Federer play final Group A match
2304: Del Potro wins in three sets
2308: The world number five slumps in chair uncertain of semi-final fate
2312: Del Potro learns he is through and embraces fellow Argentine Carlos Tevez in the crowd
2315: The duo knock up on court but no official announcement is made
2317: ATP confirm Roger Federer and Del Potro through to semis
All three men ended with a 2-1 match record and the same sets record, but Federer won the group with a better games won percentage record (44-40), while Del Potro (45-43) edged Murray (44-43) by one game.
Fourth seed Murray had beaten Del Potro in Sunday's opening Group A match before losing to Federer on Tuesday, and a straight-sets win over Verdasco would have seen him automatically into the semis.
But the Scot still felt confident of progressing after his three-set victory.
"I knew if I won the match then there was only one way I couldn't go through, and that was Del Potro winning in three sets and then I think it would go down to the games won," he said after the match.
"I just had to focus on winning and then there's a very slim chance of me going out."
Unfortunately for Murray, that slim chance proved to be the reality as Del Potro won the final set with the only score that would put Murray out - 6-3.
"This is the sport," said the Argentine. "Just two players have to qualify.
"Maybe for the local public it's bad not to have the opportunity to see Murray in the semis, but they will see Federer for sure and other good players."
Federer was sympathetic to Murray's plight but said: "There are certain rules and these are the rules. Sometimes unfortunate, sometimes fortunate.
"This time they're very hard for Murray, who didn't get through, but he got so close. How can we imagine that we all play three sets and it comes down to a couple of games?
"He had it maybe on his racquet when he served against me at 5-1 in the third [on Tuesday]. You have to go back there, that maybe if he held that game all of a sudden he gets through.
"But that's not the way you can think. I definitely try to push myself to close out matches as quickly as I can against fellow rivals because you never know when you might need those games. They might come back in the match and turn the match around completely.
"It happened to me once this year against Tsonga - I was 5-1 up in the third and I ended up losing. You always have to push yourself. The system is the way it is."
Murray had looked in good shape after extending his record against Verdasco to 8-1 with a nailbiting victory.
The Spaniard also had an outside chance of qualification despite losing his first two matches, and it was cagey stuff early on as both men knew that losing the first set could ultimately end their hopes.
Murray's ability to scramble brought the first breakthrough in game nine when Verdasco twice failed to put away a smash before being drawn into a rash forehand volley that went well wide.
Murray served out the set but could not convert a succession of break points in the second as Verdasco saved his best for the crucial moments, before dominating the tie-break.
Verdasco had levelled the match despite earning just one break point to Murray's 12 and he continued to be the one under threat as the deciding set began.
The frustration began to tell on the Scot, whose body language said it all as more break points went begging, but he continued to serve well and put the pressure back on his opponent.
It was not enough to avoid the shoot-out of another tie-break though, and with the majority of the 17,000 spectators now very vocally behind him, Murray took control this time.
Verdasco double-faulted before Murray won a baseline exchange for 5-2, and he wrapped things up when the Spaniard hooked a forehand wide on the first match point after exactly three hours.
It was not enough to take Murray through though, and he later confirmed that he had even asked for clarification of the qualification process during the third set.
"I just asked if the games were done on games won, or the percentage of games," he said.
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