Brief as it may have been, but the 56 minutes that sixth seed Andy Murray had to endure at the O2 Arena on Thursday evening in his final round robin match of the 2014 ATP World Tour Finals were nothing short of a nightmare.
The permutations and combinations from earlier matches had meant that the Scot would have had to beat second seed Roger Federer in straight sets to qualify for the semi-finals.
As it turned out, Murray writhed and toiled and just about managed to avoid the ignominy of being double-bagelled by the resurgent Swiss maestro, losing 6-0, 6-1 in less than an hour, equalling his heaviest defeat ever on the tour.
At one point, Murray was trailing 6-0, 5-0 and when he did hold his serve for the first time in six attempts, the O2 erupted, and it wasn’t a sarcastic applause.
“I am sure the crowd will be fairly split,” Murray had said ahead of the match, as quoted by the Guardian. “They have been when I have played Roger in London before. He always gets great support wherever he goes.”
However, shouts of “Come on, Andy!” far outnumbered “Come on, Roger!” but as the match progressed, the tone of the chant changed from being motivational to that of a desperate plea.
The 33-year-old Federer, looking to end the year as world No. 1 by winning this tournament, was faultless with his groundstrokes and produced enough delicacies from his racket to induce admiring gasps and claps, only to be negated by the long frowns and frustrated bursts that greeted Murray’s pedestrian performance, studded with four double faults.
The mood of the O2 was summed up by two moments during the match when the television camera found a familiar face in the crowd.
The arena resonated with loud boos as Chelsea FC manager Jose Mourinho came up on the big screen twice. It was as animated as the crowd had ever gotten on the night, not that Mourinho gave a hoot, even more than when Murray won his one and only game of the match.
Federer, who secured his place in the semi-finals with what was his 250th indoor match win of his career, was almost apologetic in his post-match comments.
“I think I just really picked apart his game,” Federer told the tournament’s official website. “I didn’t even really serve that well, but from the baseline I had the upper hand, which hasn’t always happened against him.”
“But I definitely was able to play on my terms. For me, things went very well. I was able to put Andy under pressure very often, and I think the match couldn’t have gone any better for me really.”
After winning 100 per cent of his first serve points compared to Murray’s 37 per cent, and 78 per cent of his total serve points to Murray’s 38 per cent, it really could not have.
Murray, meanwhile, also apologised to his fans via Twitter:
Murray would consider 2014 an aberration. It was a year he spent mainly recovering from his back operation and was not even a shadow of his form of the previous two seasons. As he heads for Miami for off-season training along with coach Amelie Mauresmo, he will have quite a few points on the white board to strike off before the start of the 2015 season.
Federer, meanwhile, is steaming ahead towards the world No 1 ranking and only the current incumbent, Novak Djokovic, looks to have enough firepower to contain him at the moment.
The two could meet for the fifth time this year in Sunday’s final with the seasonal head-to-head tied at two wins each, in a match that if anything should be more exciting than Thursday evening’s snoozefest.
See pictures from the match here.