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Berdych holds his nerve as Czechs draw level against Spain in Davis Cup final

Berdych holds his nerve as Czechs draw level against Spain in Davis Cup final

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UPDATED:

23:25 GMT, 16 November 2012

Prior to the Davis Cup final Tomas Berdych described Nicolas Almagro as the 'weak link' of Spain, and those words so nearly came back to dramatically bite him as the opening Friday nearly spilled into Saturday.

With the clock approaching midnight the Czech No 1 finally surpressed the game challenge of Almagro to level the match at 1-1 with three to play, but having spurned so many chances to finish it off he could nearly have ended up embarrassed.

Delight: Tomas Berdych celebrates after beating Nicolas Almagro

Delight: Tomas Berdych celebrates after beating Nicolas Almagro

Almagro, who has a modest indoor record and only just gained selection over Feliciano Lopez, came close to changing the whole course of the final before going down 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-7 6-3 in three hours and 58 minutes.

Eventually he had the 02 Arena, packed with nearly 14,000 supporters, in raptures but through the course of the evening they were severely worried by his inability to put the Spaniard away.

They began the day by parading the old Czechoslovakian Davis Cup team that won the competition in 1980, including Ivan Lendl on a rare trip back to his homeland.

But what is now known as the Czech Republic, since splitting with Slovakia, was no nearer emulating the triumph of 32 years ago, and Almagro may already have done his team a major service by keeping Berdych out on the court so long and until so late.

One of the joys of the Davis Cup is that doubles, the most popular recreational form of the game, emerges from the shadow of professional singles to play such an important part in matches, and that will be absolutely the case today.

Czech mates: Berdych and his team celebrate

Czech mates: Berdych and his team celebrate

This afternoon's encounter between what is expected to be the Czech team of Berdych and Radek Stepanek versus specialist team Marc Granollers and Marc Lopez, who took the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals title on Monday, looks too close to call and could determine the whole outcome of the match.

The question is how much the opening singles will have taken out of Berdych, who was left with precious little time to turn round thanks to the 4pm start which is always prone to cause a late finish.

There was no great surprise in the outcome of the opening rubber, a 6-3 6-4 6-4 win for David Ferrer, even though a less determined character than the world number five might have succumbed to the circumstances ranged against him.

The Czechs have laid down what would be termed a fast indoor hard court by today's sluggish standards, although not many years ago it would have been considered no more than vaguely brisk in terms of speed.

The move is designed to assist the more aggressive tendencies of the home players and hurt the more baseline-reliant Spaniards, but Ferrer, who gave Andy Murray such a tough match at Wimbledon, has matured into such an all-round player that it hardly bothered him.

Czech Republic's Tomas Berdych

Czech Republic's Tomas Berdych

Nor did the fact that this was his 90th singles match of the season, and his fourth event in four weeks, having won in Valencia and Paris and been unlucky to miss out on the semi-finals in London. He simply never seems to get tired, physically or mentally.

Stepanek, now 34 and ranked 32 places lower at 37 in the world, simply had to get a good start and ignite the crowd in the O2 Arena, which looks like it could have been tailor-made to host tennis.

He started well enough before getting into difficulty in what turned out to be among the longest individual games of recent seasons, the sixth, which lasted 24 minutes and contained eleven deuces.

It began with him serving two double faults – his serve was his weakest suit throughout – but he eventually squeezed himself out of it to stay level, in what might have proved a considerable psychological blow to the Spaniard

Instead Ferrer just got on with his business, as he does, and quickly broke before holding on to the set. When he broke in the first game of the second set the die appeared to have been cast with five consecutive games. His biggest problem was converting break points, and at one point he had created 19 and taken only two of them.

Sore point: Spain's Nicolas Almagro, center, argues the umpire

Sore point: Spain's Nicolas Almagro, center, argues the umpire

Stepanek, with is elegant caress of the ball, did manage to break back but could never hold on to any momentum and was unable to provide his team with an upset, going down in two hours and 58 minutes. “I returned serve very well, that was crucial,” said Ferrer, now 22-4 in the Davis Cup and still enjoying the season of his life.

Berdych looked like he was going to finish Almagro off when he went ahead to 3-1 in the fourth, but was hauled back to a tiebreak which he lost 7-5, leading to a decider in what was surely a must-win rubber for the home side.

The Czech is not known for having the strongest nerve, and he went ahead again for 4-2 in the fifth, only to be broken back immediately. At 4-4 he then created three break points, and on the last of them slapped away a cross court backhand. Almagro appealed the call to Hawk-Eye, which showed that it had just clipped the line.

Finally he served it out with sufficient ease to ensure that this was not a tale of the unexpected – it was always likely that this 100th edition of the Davis Cup was going to be decided over the course of the weekend.

US Open 2012: Andy Murray hopes to take strength from Feliciano Lopez match

Murray believes drawn-out Lopez battle will boost him against Raonic

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UPDATED:

17:41 GMT, 2 September 2012

Andy Murray wore a T-shirt in his press conference before his clash with Milos Raonic that read: 'Sweat is weakness leaving the body.'

And he is hoping his gruelling third-round win over Feliciano Lopez can make him stronger for the greater tests to come at the US Open.

The Scot needed almost four hours in blistering New York heat to see off an opponent he had beaten comfortably in all but one of their previous six meetings.

When stars collide: Andy Murray with actor Kevin Spacey on Sunday

When stars collide: Andy Murray with actor Kevin Spacey on Sunday

At times in the third and fourth sets he appeared barely able to move his feet but he found a way through and now meets rising star Raonic, who was hugely impressive in beating American James Blake in much less oppressive conditions.

Murray is one of the fittest players around but he is feeling the effects of missing his usual post-Wimbledon training block in Miami because of the Olympics.

The third seed is confident, though, that rather than hindering his title chances, the experience can actually help him.

He said: 'The best training you can do sometimes is on the match court. Obviously not getting that many matches in on the hard courts and in these conditions before probably didn't help.

'I hope it's a benefit, if anything. I need to spend time on the court. I need to go through tough moments, tough situations, because I've been in pressure situations recently but not necessarily physically-demanding conditions.'

With fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga losing early, Raonic looked to be the biggest obstacle to a probable semi-final meeting with Roger Federer for Murray, and the Canadian's performance on Saturday only reinforced that.

At last: Murray needed four sets - three ending in tie-breaks - to beat Feliciano Lopez

At last: Murray needed four sets – three ending in tie-breaks – to beat Feliciano Lopez

The confident 21-year-old is one of the
game's biggest servers and beat Murray in their only previous meeting,
on clay in Barcelona earlier this year.

The Scot said: 'He has a huge serve. He's improved a lot from the back of the court. He goes for his second serve as well. He can serve some doubles but also get free points from his second serve, too.

'It's a similar kind of match to playing (John) Isner. He has the same power on the serve as Isner. He probably can't hit the spots that Isner can because of the height, but is maybe a little bit more solid from the back of the court. This is his best year on the tour so far and it will be tough.'

Raonic, seeded 15th here, has been tipped by many pundits as a future grand slam champion, and Murray would not disagree.

The Canadian has pushed Federer hard in all their three meetings this year while, in the second round of the Olympics, he lost out in a titanic struggle with Tsonga 25-23 in the deciding set.

Murray said: 'I think he obviously has
the potential. When you have big, big weapons, that helps. He's had some
good wins this year. He's also had some tough losses.

Prep: Murray hopes the experience will give him strength

Prep: Murray hopes the experience will give him strength

'He's obviously playing better and better. He's gaining experience all the time. He's definitely going to be dangerous.'

Lopez, a good friend of Murray, echoed the Scot's belief that their tough match can help him.

The Spaniard said: 'When you win a match like this your confidence goes high.

'His confidence was very high after he won the Olympics and he's always very focused when he plays a grand slam, he always reaches semis or finals. I think the match we played will be good for him. Even when you feel tired, after winning you feel different.'

Lopez, meanwhile, hailed the abilities of the world number four, adding: 'He's really tough to play against and he's improving every year. He's a champion.

'He would have won a few majors if he didn't have to challenge Roger, who is the best in history, Rafa (Nadal), who is probably the second best, and Novak (Djokovic), who is an incredible player.

'In another time he would have been number one in the world for sure.'

US Open 2012: Andy Murray beat Feliciano Lopez 7-6, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6

Murray made to sweat as he squeezes past Lopez but hotter tasks await

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UPDATED:

22:44 GMT, 1 September 2012

There is nothing like a straightforward win at a Grand Slam tournament when the temperature is hot enough to fry an egg on the court surface and there are still four matches before the final.

Sadly for Andy Murray, Saturday night's win was anything but easy. Forget about the fact that the Scot claimed a four-set victory over Feliciano Lopez in the third round of the US Open. This was an epic which the British No 1 finally came through 7-6, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6 on the Louis Armstrong Court. At what cost remains to be seen.

The Spaniard, nicknamed ‘Deliciano’ by Murray’s mother, Judy, for his Latin good looks, pushed the Scot to the limits throughout a tight match that could so easily have swung the other way.

There it is: Andy Murray celebrates his win

There it is: Andy Murray celebrates his win

The 25-year-old Scot has Sunday to
recover before the prospect of a fourth-round tie against either Milos
Raonic, from Canada, or America’s James Blake, who played later on
Saturday in less demanding conditions.

It was not supposed to happen like
this. Murray had enjoyed a record of six wins in six meetings against
his 30-year-old Spanish friend, a run of victories that have seen Lopez
take just one set from the No 3 seed.

In last year’s identical third round
Murray won again in straight sets. This time it was very different.
Lopez matched the Olympic champion almost point for point, just losing
out when it mattered most.

It was the last thing Murray needed in
brutal heat. ‘I was struggling physically,’ Murray admitted. ‘It was
incredibly hot out there. The heat made the conditions extremely
challenging.

Going through: Murray made it into the second week at Flushing Meadows

Going through: Murray made it into the second week at Flushing Meadows

Hard work: Murray was run close in a tough match

Hard work: Murray was run close in a tough match

‘I was a couple of sets up and would
have liked to have played better but it didn’t happen the way I’d have
liked. But I played well in the tie break and that was the difference. I
started serving better when it mattered but there’s no doubt I can play
better.

‘I’ll be back in the next match giving 100 per cent.’

Both men moved like sloths in between
points and grabbed towels and drinks at every chance. Elsewhere two
junior players were forced to stop their match due to heat exhaustion.

There was little to suggest the war of
attrition that would follow a first game that Murray, aided by two
aces, won to love, but when Lopez followed suit in the second and then
had two break points in the third game we knew this was not going to
follow the expected script.

On the ball: Murray saw off Lopez for the seventh time in his career

On the ball: Murray saw off Lopez for the seventh time in his career

Bogey man: Feliciano Lopez cannot find a way past Murray

Bogey man: Feliciano Lopez cannot find a way past Murray

There was plenty of fight in Lopez,
notably in the 10th game of the first set when, facing three set points
against him, he fought back to win the game. The tie-break was only
resolved on the 12th point when Murray came through 7-5.

It was more of the same in the second
set, too. Murray took a 2-0 lead before Lopez broke back. The set went
with serve until the inevitable tie break, one which the Spaniard should
have closed with leads of 4-1 and 5-3. Instead Murray rattled off four
straight points to take the set 7-6 again with a 7-5 tie-break win.

The third set began in identical
fashion. Murray raced to a 2-0 lead as Lopez double-faulted but, just
when we thought the Spaniard had wilted, he bounced back to 2-2 and
then, having been broken again, to 4-4. Then he broke Murray and served
out the set to win 6-4.

Off the floor: Murray drags himself to his feet

Off the floor: Murray drags himself to his feet

The fourth set went with serve as both
players tired. Murray blew two break points in the eighth game, then
recovered to win the ninth.

In the 11th game Murray was a break point down but managed to salvage the situation by winning a 23-shot rally.

Inevitably the fourth set reached a
third tie-break. There was more drama, including a lucky net-cord that
fell in Murray’s favour. Finally, Murray prevailed after three hours and
53 minutes, winning the tie-break 7-4.

Closing in: Can Murray finally win a Grand Slam

Closing in: Can Murray finally win a Grand Slam

It provoked a scream of ‘Come on’ and a look to the heavens. It was, in truth, a look of utter relief.

Murray’s Olympic gold was supposed to
have imbued him with new-found confidence which made him favourite in
many people’s eyes to finally break his Slam duck. .

It may still happen, of course. Murray
is through to the fourth round, but the heat shows no sign of abating
and Federer, who beat Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, and probably
Novak Djokovic still wait for him.

Packed out: Fans turned up in their droves

Packed out: Fans turned up in their droves

Andy Murray out of Barcelona Open after defeat to Milos Raonic

Murray suffers shock exit after big-serving Raonic sends Brit packing in Barcelona

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UPDATED:

13:28 GMT, 27 April 2012


Disaster: Andy Murray crashed out in straight sets

Disaster: Andy Murray crashed out in straight sets

Andy Murray suffered a surprise exit at the Barcelona Open losing in straight sets to big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic.

The 6ft 5in 21-year-old from Ontario, who crushed sixth seed Nicolas Almagro in the last round, headed into the match having never beaten a top-eight player but rarely looked overawed en route to a 6-4 7-6 (7-3) triumph.

He endured a minor blip when serving for the second set, allowing second seed Murray his first break of the match, before breezing through the tie-break to clinch the biggest win of his fledgling career in one hour 44 minutes.

Raonic, known as 'The Missile', will face third seed David Ferrer or seventh seed Feliciano Lopez in the semi-finals, the Spanish duo meeting in the second quarter-final in Catalonia.

Murray had little difficulty in the last round against Santiago Giraldo, but knew he was in for a battle from the outset today.

Raonic's fierce forehands helped him bring up a break point in the opening game. Murray survived, but two aces from the world number 25 swiftly levelled things up.

Alex Kay Talks Tennis

The first set followed a similar pattern – Murray tested on serve and Raonic holding with ease – until game seven, when a loose drop shot from the Scot resulted in a second break point for the youngster, and this time he capitalised to go 4-3 up.

Raonic comfortably held again to move within a game of the set and then, after Murray had dug out the hold with the help of an ace, the Canadian brought up three set points with his ninth ace and duly took the first with a forehand winner.

Having managed only four points on the Raonic serve in the first set, Murray looked brighter at the start of the second set, but continued to struggle to make inroads against the serve.

The Scot served out to love in game three himself, though, and then took Raonic to deuce in game four before the Canadian pulled through with another huge serve.

Frustration: Murray grimaces during his defeat

Frustration: Murray grimaces during his defeat

Turfed out: Murray needs to improve his clay game

Turfed out: Murray needs to improve his clay game

A superb cross-court winner edged Murray ahead again and again he then troubled the Raonic serve, but could not force the break.

Just when the second set looked to be following the same format as the first, Raonic too passed up two break-point opportunities in game seven as Murray squeezed 4-3 ahead.

But, after powering through another strong service game, Raonic broke Murray to give himself the chance to serve for the match and claim the biggest scalp of his career.

Murray showed his battling qualities by breaking back, though, before two clinical service games took the match into a tie-break.

However, if the Scot thought nerves were getting to Raonic, he was sadly mistaken.

He cruised into a 5-1 lead and, although Murray engineered a chink of light by taking his two points on serve, there was no way back.