Andy Murray beats Robin Soderling in ATP World Finals
ATP World Tour Finals Venue: O2 Arena, London Dates: 21-28 November Coverage: One match each day live on BBC TV, streamed online & available through iPlayer; text commentary online and on mobiles for every singles match via BBC Sport website; every singles match live on 5live sports extra.
By Piers Newbery at the O2 Arena
Andy Murray made a magnificent start to his ATP World Tour Finals campaign as he swept past fourth seed Robin Soderling in Sunday's opening match.
The British number one thrilled the 17,500 spectators at the O2 Arena as he
demolished the Swede 6-2 6-4
in one hour and 20 minutes to take early command of Group B.
It was a hugely encouraging way for the home favourite to begin the end-of-season championships as he found something close to his best form, in contrast to a surprisingly flat Soderling.
Murray must still face Roger Federer and David Ferrer in the round-robin stage later in the week, with the Swiss and the Spaniard meeting in Sunday's second singles match at 2000 GMT.
Murray happy with winning start in London
But he will be confident of at least finishing in the top two and qualifying for Saturday's semi-finals if he can maintain his initial form.
"I think tactically it was a great match," said Murray. "I think I played very smart tennis.
"It was getting tough in the second set, a lot of long rallies and I was on the defensive quite a lot but I stuck to my tactics well and managed to come through.
"The court is really slow for an indoor court. I used the slice really well, it was staying pretty low, and played a lot of drop-shots which some of the commentators don't like, but they worked today."
Soderling had no complaints over the emphatic nature of Murray's win.
"He served really well. Maybe that's the only thing I was a little bit surprised with. He was putting a lot of first serves in. And he was defending really well," he said.
"I think I was hitting the ball pretty hard sometimes, trying to be aggressive. Every time I came to the net, he came up with a really good shot."
At the same event 12 months ago, Murray opened with a win over Juan Martin del Potro, only to lose out on a semi-final spot to the Argentine five days later by the narrowest of margins, on the percentage of games won.
With that in mind, he had spoken in the build-up about the importance of making a strong start to the round-robin stage, and facing Soderling first up looked like a considerable challenge.
The cold facts suggested that the Swede was the favourite going into Sunday's match.
Soderling arrived in London having overtaken Murray for fourth in the world rankings last week, brimming with confidence on the back of his first Masters victory in Paris, and in the knowledge that much of his best tennis has been played indoors, including a run to the semis at the O2 last year.
His huge, flat hitting and heavy serve had also caused Murray problems earlier in the year when the Swede won their first match since 2006 in straight sets at Indian Wells.
Murray's form has been inconsistent of late but a brilliant performance against Roger Federer in the Shanghai final last month had reminded everyone of what the Scot can do, and an expectant crowd wanted to see the same player that reached the Wimbledon semi-finals on his last visit home.
They were not disappointed.
Murray gave an early signal that his rhythm was good with a couple of beautifully angled cross-court forehands and, after getting to 0-40 in game three, the Scot converted his third break point with a bullet of a backhand return.
With Soderling unable to find a single ace in the first set he was constantly under pressure on serve, and Murray stepped in to attack the Swede's second serve for the double-break at 5-2 before wrapping up the set moments later with a magical, improvised drop shot.
World number four Soderling is only 20 ranking points clear of Murray
When Murray saw off a rare moment of danger at deuce early in the second set by returning a Soderling smash for a winner, the Swede looked as though he might call it quits and head for the locker room, but bit by bit he worked his way into the set.
Soderling finally earned himself a break point in game six only to see a Murray ace whistle past him, and a missed second-serve return prompted an angry swipe at the air by the Swede as he failed to grab what would be his only chance of the match.
Murray earned himself three more break points in the following game with yet another cross-court forehand, and a forlorn-looking Soderling double-faulted on the second before trooping back to his chair disconsolately.
There were no alarms as the Briton served out a win that was far more straightforward than even he could have hope for, and the margin of victory could prove crucial when the final group stage standings are calculated.
However, Murray will know that to be certain of avoiding last year's agonising exit at the group stage, he will need to win all three round-robin matches.
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