Irrepressible Andy Murray revelled in his status as the conquering hero as he marked his first match on British soil since being crowned world No1 with a straights-set thrashing of Marin Cilic at the ATP World Tour finals.
Following four back-to-back titles, Murray extended his winning streak to 20 matches by overpowering Croatia’s Cilic 6-3, 6-2 at London’s O2 Arena. He will now face fellow John McEnroe Group victor Kei Nishikori in the round-robin phase tomorrow.
The backdrop to this year’s tournament is Murray’s bid to remain top of the world rankings. The 29-year-old must out-perform rival Novak Djokovic to stay ahead of the Serbian, despite not reaching the semi-finals since 2012 and never progressing to the final.
“I played one of my best matches that I’ve played here over the years and I will just try and keep going until the end of the year now,” said Murray.
“A big thank you for all of the support, it was an incredible atmosphere and I really appreciate it. I will keep working hard to give moments like this.
“When you start winning matches you gain confidence and in the important moments, on the break points, I was more solid than Marin.
“He had some chances as well in the first set and at the beginning of the second but when I had my opportunities I took them and that’s what winning matches does for you.”
Japan’s Nishikori, meanwhile, boosted his chances of climbing the global rankings by beating lacklustre world No3 Stan Wawrinka in convincing style.
Fifth seed Nisikori defeated US Open winner Wawrinka, who made 31 unforced errors, 6-2, 6-3 and made no secret of his aspirations over the coming days.
“That’s my goal this week,” said Nishikori. “Try to win a lot of matches and reach No4 or No3. I see the opportunity to go up the rankings.”
Wawrinka had previously never lost to anyone other than Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic at the O2 Arena, although his chances of reaching a fourth consecutive semi-final were dealt a severe blow.
“I was expecting a good match,” he said. “It didn’t happen.”