2021 Nitto ATP Finals: Salisbury tops Red Group with win as Norrie and Murray lose on day four
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- Cam Norrie loses out to Casper Ruud 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.
- Joe Salisbury and Rajeev Ram top the Red Group after beating Pierre Hugues Herbert and Nicholas Mahut 6-7(7), 6-0, 13-11
- Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares lose tough match against Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah 6-2, 6-4
Norrie beaten in three-set epic
Cam Norrie went toe-to-toe with World No.8 Casper Ruud at the Nitto ATP Finals, but losing a close three-set battle 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Having been announced earlier in the day that Norrie would come in to replace the injured Stefanos Tsitsipas, the British No.1 took his opportunity well, pushing Ruud all the way, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be on the night.
Any signs of nerves from Norrie on his Nitto ATP Finals debut were quickly squashed in the first game as he cruised to an early hold.
Ruud won the players only other encounter at the San Diego final a few months ago, only dropping two games in the match, but Norrie came in all guns blazing against the Norwegian’s serve. In the fourth game he continued hammering away at Ruud, forcing him to play two wayward backhands to give the Brit the first break.
Unforced errors proved costly for Ruud, who racked up 10 in the first set, handing the British No.1 a second break to make it 5-1.
Norrie barely put a foot wrong, effortlessly working his opponent from side to side with a range of shots. Serving for the set he played two uncharacteristic errors with two match points, but an impressive serve and volley, followed by a wide angled serve winner completed a commanding one set lead.
Three aces in his opening two games to start the second set helped Ruud settle more into the match but Norrie’s wouldn’t back down.
The eighth seed had to find a big forehand winner down the line to stop Norrie from nudging closer to the break at 3-3 to keep himself in the match.
Then came his big opportunity – two unforced errors on the forehand side from the Brit on serve and a volley into the net, gave Ruud the reward he’d been looking for. Two aces and a dominant offensive game from the Norwegian and we were back on level terms.
At a pivotal point in the third set at 2-2 on Norrie’s serve, the World No.8 got onto the end of the Brit’s smash and worked his way back in to go 0-30 up. Norrie saved two break points but a double fault gifted Ruud the all-important edge in the final set.
Ruud was back to his best, showing the controlled aggression that caused Novak Djokovic some issues on Monday. Two solid holds weren’t enough for Norrie as he pushed his opponent all the way to the last ball.
Norrie saved three match points, but with the chance to push and equalise the match Ruud provided the killer blow off the first serve, completing his hard-earned victory.
The British No.1 will play Novak Djokovic next on Friday.
Salisbury and Ram come back to beat French Open champions
Joe Salisbury and Rajeev Ram came through one of the matches of the tournament so far at the Nitto ATP Finals, coming from a set down to beat Pierre Hugues Herbert and Nicholas Mahut 6-7(7), 6-0, 13-11.
Salisbury and Ram’s victory in the battle of the 2021 Grand Slam champions see’s them climb to the top of the Red Group with a strong chance of making it through to the semi-finals.
The second seeds had to show their mental strength right from the start. The French duo raced to a 0-40 lead setting up four break points, but a couple of costly second serve returns into the net, gifted Salisbury and Ram a vital hold to get off the mark.
After that, the US Open champions settled into the match well and all four players held their opening service games.
During the sixth game, Salisbury and Ram missed their one and only break point on the deuce decider with the American hitting the net off Herbert’s second serve.
With little to separate two of the top three teams on the tour this season, the opening set went to the tie-break, where it was more of the same. Salisbury and Ram had the first shot at a set point after a brilliant down the line winner from the Brit but couldn’t convert on serve.
An unreturnable first serve from Mahut gave the French team their first chance at stretching ahead and it was the 39-year-old who finished it with a driving forehand through the centre of the court.
The response from Salisbury and Ram was world-class. An incredible short backhand return from the American set up three break points in the first game and a double fault from Herbert gave them the game.
Ram’s return has been a weapon all week and with another set of break points against Mahut’s serve he picked his spot down the line to seal a 3-0 lead.
The French Open champions couldn’t get anything going at all – they didn’t win a second serve points in the set and Salisbury and Ram went on to win the set to love.
It was a steady start to the match tie-break, but at 2-2 Hubert was caught flat footed as Ram passed him to take the mini break. But the Frenchman redeemed himself with a fine angled winner across the body of Salisbury and they fought hard to bring the score to 9 apiece.
Match points came and went on both sides, but with Ram facing Herbert’s second serve at 11-12, there was only going to be one winner. He played the return right at Herbert’s feet, finishing off a thrilling match to go top of the Red Group.
The second seeds will return on Friday to play Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.
Murray and Soares lose tough battle to the fifth seeds
Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares lost their second match at the Nitto ATP Finals to Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah 6-2, 6-4.
After also losing to Joe Salisbury and Rajeev Ram earlier this week, Murray and Soares face an uphill battle to stay in the running for a semi-final place on Saturday.
It was a nervy start for the British-Brazilian duo. The Colombians took advantage of a couple of errors to create three break point opportunities and deal the opening blow of the match.
At 3-2, it looked like Murray and Soares had been given a lifeline, with a couple of chances to get back into the set thanks to an inspired point from the Brit covering all areas of the court.
A quick one-two serve and volley punch saved the first break point and on the deuce decider, Cabal got a stroke of luck as his volley intercept ricocheted off the frame, landing just over the net for a winner. Opportunity missed.
The double Grand Slam champions continued to pile on the pressure. Despite being down 40-30 on Soares serve, Cabal and Farah played two almost identical points – hammering groundstrokes between their opponents at the net – to claim their second break.
They served out the set comfortably showing no signs of slowing down early in the second – breaking Murray to love.
After a run of eight consecutive points won in a row, Murray and Soares got back on track with some brilliant serving from the Brazilian, setting up the Brit to clean up at the net.
As in the first set, at 3-2 on the deciding point the Colombians had enough to come out on top. Soares put up fantastic defence to return Cabal’s smash but mis-fired on his next shot, pulling it wide.
It looked like the match was dead and buried at 5-2, but Murray and Soares came back fighting, clinching their first break with a wicked passing shot from Soares.
At 5-4 Murray and Soares were even 0-30 on Farah’s serve, but the fifth seeds showed excellent composure to serve out four points in a row to win the match.