LONDON,(Reuters) – It was quite a couple of hours for the Murray brothers at the ATP World Tour Finals on Friday.
Younger sibling Andy crushed Switzerland’s world number three Stan Wawrinka 6-4 6-2 to top his group and stay on course for a season-ending finale against Novak Djokovic.
Shortly before taking to the O2 Arena court, it was also confirmed that Jamie Murray and Brazilian partner Bruno Soares would end the year as the world’s top-ranked duo, courtesy of a defeat for rivals Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
Jamie has made a habit of beating his higher-profile brother to milestones. He won a grand slam title — the 2007 Wimbledon mixed doubles — five years before Andy won the U.S. Open. Jamie reached number one in the ATP doubles rankings in April, seven months before Andy hit the singles summit. Now he has clinched the year-end top spot for the first time with Soares, a few days before Andy can match him and confirm he is the top dog in men’s tennis.
Jamie could also beat his brother to the ATP World Tour title as the doubles final on Sunday is the warm-up act for the singles.
“Regardless of what happens over the weekend, we can look back on this year and be very proud of what we’ve done as a family,” said triple grand slam champion Andy.
It looks odds-on that Murray junior will meet Serb Djokovic in the final when not just the title but the year-end ranking would be up for grabs.
Djokovic, who faces Kei Nishikori on Saturday, cranked up the pressure on Thursday by trouncing David Goffin in his final group match, edging just ahead of Murray on points.
Murray faced a far trickier task against U.S. Open champion Wawrinka. After weathering an early storm he won with something to spare to extend his winning streak to 22 matches and set up a semi-final against Canadian Milos Raonic.
A straight-sets defeat could have eliminated Murray and he knew that simply winning a set would earn a semi-final spot.
After spending three hours 20 minutes grinding past Nishikori on Wednesday, Murray was not keen on more overtime and broke twice to romp through the second set — Wawrinka mangling two rackets as his hopes faded.
“The first set was tight, there weren’t many chances,” he said. “The second I had already qualified and Stan needed to win so it was a bit easier for me to play freely.”
First he must get past Raonic for the third time in a London final this year, having beaten him at Queen’s Club and a few weeks later to claim a second Wimbledon crown.
“I’m certainly not taking anything for granted. I know it will be hard,” said Murray whose brilliant late-season run has landed him four consecutive titles.