The Wimbledon champion was tested for much of his opening match at the ATP finals but still came out on top, beating Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-2 Monday at the O2 Arena.
Murray took over at the top of the rankings last week, replacing Novak Djokovic. But the year-end No. 1 ranking is still up for grabs and could be decided on Sunday if both Murray and Djokovic reach the final.
Murray struggled to win his service games in the first set against Cilic, but still ended up saving all but one of the five break points he faced. On the other side, he converted four of his five break points.
In the early match, Stan Wawrinka finally lost a match at the ATP finals to someone who hasn’t been ranked No. 1 in the world. The U.S. Open champion, who has reached the semifinals of the season-ending tournament for the last three years, lost to Kei Nishikori 6-2, 6-3.
“It was not a great match compared to what I can do, that’s for sure,” said Wawrinka, a three-time Grand Slam champion. “I don’t think I find anything on the court today. I was a little bit slow on everything. I was hesitating a lot with my game, my movement.”
Wawrinka holds a 6-7 record at the tournament for the top eight players in the world, but his previous six losses were against Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal – twice to each.
Monday’s loss doesn’t mean Wawrinka is out of the tournament, but it hurts his chances of finishing the year as the No. 3-ranked player. Wawrinka, Nishikori and Milos Raonic all have a chance to end up one spot behind Murray and Djokovic.
“I’m sure I still have something inside me to play some great tennis before the end of the year, so I’m going to try everything for that in the next match,” Wawrinka said. “I’m going to do what I need to do tomorrow to get ready for trying to play better in two days.”
Nishikori, currently ranked fifth, helped his own chances of reaching that third spot by breaking Wawrinka twice in each set while not allowing a single break point on his serve.
“I’m not thinking too much about rankings, but would be nice if I could finish 4 or 3,” Nishikori said. “I see good chance to be there if I can play good this week.”
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