ABU DHABI // Andy Murray ended his 2016 the same way he spent much of the year — victorious.
Taking on Canadian world No 3 Milos Raonic in the third place play-off at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship on Saturday, Murray celebrated the news of his impending knighthood with a 6-3, 7-6 win over the man he beat in last year’s Wimbledon final.
Murray, 29, will soon be “Sir Andy” having been recognised in the New Year’s honours list following an unprecedented year for a British tennis player. A second Wimbledon title in the summer preceded a successful defence of his Olympic gold medal in Rio. And then came the 26-match winning run that produced five titles and an ascent to world No 1 — the first British player to reach the pinnacle. He ended the last ATP season with a phenomenal 78-9 win-loss record.
After an uncharacteristically sluggish performance, by his own immense standards, in the semi-final defeat to David Goffin on Friday, Murray started Saturday’s match like a train; twice breaking the formidable Raonic serve to surge into a 4-0 lead. Despite surrendering one of those breaks, Murray’s early lead proved unassailable as he wrapped up the opener in 35 minutes.
It was the second time in as many matches Raonic, who possesses one of the most potent serves on the tour, fell behind a double break in the opening exchanges following an identical start to his semi-final with Rafael Nadal.
“Normally when you play any other tournament, you don’t play two of the best returners in the game in two consecutive days, so it’s a different scenario,” Raonic, 26, said when he sought to explain the slow starts to his two MWTC matches.
The second set was a much tighter affair, until Murray broke the Raonic serve for a third time to take a 4-3 lead. However, the advantage was surrendered when Murray, serving for the match at 5-4, allowed Raonic a route back into the match. The set would then be decided on a tiebreak, with Murray creating the all-important match point with a glorious cross-court passing shot before closing out the victory 8-6.
Murray will now take the short trip to Doha for the Qatar Open to officially begin his 2017 season, while Raonic faces a somewhat lengthier journey to Australia to defend his Brisbane International title.
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