Long winter ahead as Murray suffers worst career defeat to Federer

Scott 14/11/2014
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Different class: Roger Federer embarrassed Andy Murray in their ATP Tour Finals encounter.

Andy Murray conceded his humiliating exit from the ATP Tour Finals was a suitably downbeat way to end one of the most difficult years of his career.

Murray's hopes of salvaging a frustrating campaign by winning the prestigious season-ending event for the first time were shattered as Roger Federer thrashed the Scot 6-0, 6-1 to hand him the joint worst defeat of his career.

The 27-year-old's second defeat from his three group matches was more than enough to condemn him to a premature exit from London's O2 Arena and bring the curtain down on an 11-month tale of woe.

Only once before, against Novak Djokovic in Miami in 2007, had Murray taken such a beating, and on that occasion he had the excuse of being less than 100 percent fit.

To his credit, Murray refused to play the blame game after being blown away in 56 minutes by Federer.

"It's very disappointing. I would have hoped to have done a lot better but when he's extremely loose like he was tonight he was able to try some shots he might not in other situations. Everything he tried came off. He has the ability to do that," Murray said.

"After tonight it's quite clear I'm quite a long way from that level. I won't be able to tell you if it's affected my confidence until I start the new year. But it's not a nice way to finish the year.

"I know I'm going to have to put a lot of work on the tennis court, a lot of work on my game, if I want to start the season with an opportunity to win in Australia."


     
Emotionally drained

An emotional season had clearly taken its toll on Murray.

He had battled a longer than expected recovery from last year's back surgery, suffered a surprise split with coach Ivan Lendl, then controversially hired former women's number one Amelie Mauresmo, lost his Wimbledon title in tame fashion and briefly fell out of the top 10 for the first time in six years.

Even after winning three low-key tournaments in the last six weeks in a successful bid to qualify for the Tour Finals, he still finished the year without a win against Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

He knows that record will have to improve dramatically if 2015 is to be more fulfilling.

"The first three or four months were hard. Going through surgery isn't easy. Maybe I didn't appreciate that so much at the time. I found it quite frustrating at the beginning of the year," Murray said.

"Obviously in the middle of that period I switched coaches and stopped working with Ivan. It was a difficult time.

"Then after that I had a couple of tough losses at the French Open and Wimbledon when I didn't play well. Tonight is another example of that.

"Mixed in with those matches was some good tennis. The last six weeks were good but yeah it's been a hard year."

The pain of being embarrassed by Federer on home ground will linger throughout the off-season and Murray, who failed to reach a Grand Slam final this year, made it clear he is determined to use that angst to fuel his bid to return to peak form.

"I'm not going to try and forget about it. When I think about what happened I'll try and use it positively, as motivation for the off-season, to make some changes to things," he said.

"I would normally take a break now but I also need time to work on things. I'll try to get back on the practice court sooner than I would have done.

"A lot can change in tennis in a matter of weeks and months.

"I'm not happy to finish the year with that result but over five sets I tend to play better tennis and I hope come Australia I'm a much better player."

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Cornet to meet Venus in Dubai final

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Shock finalist: Alize Cornet will play Venus after beating Williams' younger sister Serena.

Venus Williams will play Alize Cornet in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships after the world number 26 from France secured a hugely impressive straight-set victory over Serena Williams.

Eariler in the day Venus had booked her place in the final with a 6-3 6-2 win over Caroline Wozniacki, in which she dominated the former world number one from Denmark from start to finish with her heavier, and sometimes cleverly angled, driving.

"To come into a tournament with such a strong draw and to play a former number one now and get through is a wonderful result," said Venus.

The doubts have been whether Venus, who still battles against the side effects of an immune deficiency, has regained the endurance to produce back-to-back wins, and, although she has yet to be taken to three sets, the evidence is hopeful.

She made the ideal start, breaking Wozniacki's serve in the first game, and consolidating it with a hold, despite having trouble landing her first delivery as often as she might have liked.

But breaks of serve became commonplace, and the match often hinged on who could get the best blow in first in the rallies, something which Venus still very well equipped to do.

Wozniacki, who has been in good form herself this week at a tournament she has won before, lacked consistency on the forehand wing early on, and was twice unable to snatch game points which might have placed more score pressure upon her free-hitting opponent.

Twice her father coach Piotr came on court to offer some of his demonstrative advice, but it did not halt the direction of the match.

This accelerated after Venus had clinched the first set after a game of three deuces by punishing her opponent's second serve.

She then took the first three games of the second set and the end soon came with a flurry of typically fierce drives which Wozniacki could not contain.

There had been the chance that Venus could play her sister for the first time since 2009 when they met in Doha but Cornet was in superb form as she secured a 6-4 6-4 win over Serena.

The American world number one struggled throughout, failing to make inroads into the Cornet serve and producing some uncharacteristic unforced errors.

Cornet played one of the matches of her life as she took the first set with ease before nerves appeared to get the best of her in the second as Serena threatened to force her way back into the match.

Serena was serving to stay in the match at 3-5 and somehow managed to save three match points before eventually coming through and forcing Cornet to serve for the win.

However, yet more unforced errors and some superb serving from Cornet saw her complete a memorable victory in 84 minutes.

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Federer seeks Edberg advice ahead of Murray Melbourne showdown

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Helping hand: Federer plans to utilise the advice of coach Stefan Edberg.

Roger Federer is planning to tap coach Stefan Edberg's deep well of experience to try some new things in his quarter-final showdown with Andy Murray at the Australian Open.

The record 17-time Grand Slam champion cruised into the last eight at the year's opening Slam with a consummate straight-sets victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Monday.

The Swiss great, seeded six, rolled back the years as he swept past the French 10th seed 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 in one hour 52 minutes in an evening match on Rod Laver Arena.

Federer has now reached his 11th consecutive quarter-final in Melbourne and equalled the record of 41 Slam quarters with American Jimmy Connors as he set up a rematch of last year's semi-final which Murray won in five sets.

Federer, who is working with the six-time Grand Slam champion Edberg for 10 weeks, said he will draw on the Swede's knowledge to devise tactics for the match with Wimbledon champion Murray.

"It's not going to hurt. Yeah, it could be very helpful. We'll talk about it a little bit about the Murray match," he said.

"It's just a different perspective. He did things his way back in the day and you can take so many things from his experience.

"I want to maybe try out a few things that worked for him and try out a few things that he thinks would work out for me this time around.

"Sure, we'll discuss it, assess it, but he's here now more for just support, making me feel comfortable, giving me right advice, pre-match, post-match, discussing it with Severin Luthi my coach."

Federer's quarter-final with Tsonga went to five sets in last year's Australian Open but the Swiss sixth seed was always in command with his aggressive display, dominating the net exchanges.

Federer broke Tsonga's service three times, and only had one break point against his own serve. He won 88 percent of his first-serve points and more than twice the number of winners (43) than errors (21), in a clinical performance.

Federer also won 34 of the 41 net points, illustrating his plan to take the game to Tsonga.

"I thought I played really well tonight and clearly against Jo-Willy you have to bring your best game because he dictates play and I thought I did well dictating a lot of the plays," Federer said.

"Jo makes you play an aggressive game because if you don't he'll come and it's tough to pass him. 

"Tactics worked well and we spoke about it before the match. I don't go unprepared into matches like I used to."

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