Andy Murray won’t be able to bid farewell to one of the sites of his greatest wins this week.
The ATP Finals – where he defeated Novak Djokovic in the 2016 final to clinch the title and with it the year-end No. 1 ranking – will bid farewell to London this week after 12 successful years ahead of a move to Turin.
Murray, ranked 119 in the world, was nowhere near the cut-off for the top-eight players and, like the rest of the fans who would usually make the trip to the O2, cannot attend the tournament amid ongoing coronavirus restrictions.
Instead, Murray will spend the week reviewing the matches on video-streaming website Twitch with French tennis star Gael Monfils.
In a preview show on Friday night, Murray looked back on his time at the ATP Finals but admitted – despite it being the home of one of his finest hours – he ‘never really liked playing there’.
‘The final of the O2 helped with the noise and atmosphere and it was brilliant when I played Novak in the final there,’ said the three-time Grand Slam champion.
‘But I always found it difficult to play at the O2. Not because of the atmosphere but behind the court there is a big backstop with a sponsorship thing.
‘At the O2 it’s very low, and you have people sitting courtside and I always found it difficult with the depth perspective. I never really liked playing there.
‘I loved the atmosphere and always thought it was a brilliant event, but I didn’t feel comfortable on the court there.’
Two years before his famous win over Djokovic came one of the most difficult defeats of his career.
Roger Federer put Murray to the sword as he dumped the Briton out of the tournament with a ruthless 6-0 6-1 win in just 56 minutes.
‘One of the times I lost to Roger was one of the toughest losses from a scoreline perspective in my career,’ added Murray. ‘It was absolutely horrible, ugly. Maybe I should have been embarrassed more often but then I felt embarrassed on court.
‘I was down 6-0, 5-0 and I managed to win a game. I lost 6-0 6-1. I was embarrassed to be honest even when I won the game.
‘I didn’t want to lose 6-0 6-0 but the match was over, done, everyone in there was pretty disappointed, people who had bought tickets. The match was done in an hour, it wasn’t competitive at all.’
An interaction with Jose Mourinho, the former Chelsea and Manchester United manager who now coaches Tottenham Hotspur, did lift his spirits somewhat.
‘A lot of famous people had come to watch, too,’ he continued. ‘I remember after that match, when I walked off the court, I showered, came out of the locker room, and Jose Mourinho was there.
‘He was standing in the hallway. I had met him before. I walked past him and he just gave me a hug. He didn’t say anything. He hugged me. That made me feel a little bit better to be honest.
‘I have watched him, he’s a winner, a great fighter, achieved so much in his sport. Some people at that stage wouldn’t have known what to say or said the wrong thing. He didn’t say anything. He hugged me, that was it, that helped a little bit.
‘I was driving home in the car with my wife back from the venue. A lot of discussions about what is happening with my tennis, what is going on, should I change my team, do I change my coach.
‘It’s very easy to catastrophise it. You make it out as the worst thing that has ever happened. You need to make so many changes when it was one of those days where Roger played great, I played very badly, and I had to move on from it.
‘At the time it was tough to do that when you have been spanked like that in front of 15,000 people in the stadium, millions watching on the TV, it’s not good.’
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