Masterful Murray takes Madrid title
Financial institutions around the world may have been in meltdown, but there are no money worries at Murray Mutual. Andy Murray took his earnings for the last four months into seven figures here today when he beat Gilles Simon 6-4, 7-6 to add the Madrid Masters to his growing collection of titles.
Murray never hit the heights he had scaled in overcoming Roger Federer the previous day, but he did not need to. There was hardly a moment when the 21-year-old Scot looked troubled in his quest to become the first Briton to win four ATP titles in a single season and the first to win two Masters Series crowns.
This was Murray's second successive victory at a Masters following his win at Cincinnati in August and followed his triumphs in other tournaments earlier this year at Doha and Marseille. In the last three months he has also beaten the world's top three men, overcoming Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic for the first time, and reached his first Grand Slam final at the US Open.
The world No 4's winning cheque here was for €360,000 (£280,000). He has earned £1.25m in prize money from his last five tournaments, dating back to Wimbledon, and can earn plenty more before the end of the year. He defends his title in St Petersburg this week and then plays in the Paris Masters before taking his place for the first time in the elite eight-man field at the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai.
Murray looks certain to end the year as world No 4, which will automatically earn him a $250,000 bonus (£144,000), provided he plays in Paris and Shanghai. He will receive $100,000 (£58,000) simply for playing in the Tennis Masters Cup and would earn another $100,000 for each win in his three round-robin matches there. If he were to win the tournament without losing a match, he would earn $1.3m (£750,000).
Money, nevertheless, was not uppermost in Murray's mind here. "There were a lot of things today that were huge for me," he said after the final. "Although Tim [Henman] and Greg [Rusedski] achieved a lot more things than I have over a long period of time, I have done something that neither of them were able to do. Tim was obviously a great player for eight or nine years: that's how tough it is to win a Masters Series.
"It's not like I've beaten bad players in the Masters Series I've won. I've beaten Federer and Djokovic in the last two and I beat Djokovic in the one before, where I lost in the semis."
Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Murray have formed a breakaway group at the top of the men's game and the Scot was asked if he felt comfortable in such company. "I'm still a long way behind them," he replied. "I played great the last few months, but those guys have been unbelievable the past couple of years, so consistent on every surface."
Murray's serve has been outstanding all week and Simon did not win more than two points in a single Murray service game. Although the British No 1 did not match the 141mph ace – his fastest ever – that he had hit against Federer, Simon never got to grips with either the speed or the clever variations in Murray's serve. He hit 10 aces in total.
In truth the rest of Murray's game was not up to the high standards he had hit earlier in the tournament – he made more unforced errors (30) than winners (26) – but he was still much too good for Simon, who is up to No 10 in the world rankings and on the brink of qualifying for Shanghai.
If there was a lack of zip in the 23-year-old Frenchman's play, it was hardly surprising given that he had been on court for nearly 12 hours en route to the final, more than twice as long as Murray. All five of his previous matches had gone to three sets, four were decided by final set tie-breaks and he was on court for nearly three and a half hours the previous day against Nadal.
The 9,300-capacity Madrid Arena was full, but for long periods the atmosphere was muted, the vast majority of the crowd having no doubt been hoping for different results in the semi-finals. "I know it would have been nicer for you to watch Nadal-Federer in the final," Murray told the crowd.
Murray dropped only five points on his serve in the first set and made the only break in the fifth game courtesy of a beautiful lob on break point. Simon played defensively throughout and in the second set Murray seemed undecided whether to go on the attack or simply outlast his opponent.
However the only time Murray appeared in any sort of danger was in the tie-break. Simon created two set points when he returned a 136mph serve and then belted a forehand winner, but Murray responded with a fine drop shot and then a perfectly judged baseline rally. A big backhand return then created match point and Murray converted it by forcing Simon into a volley error.
"I didn't feel like I was particularly on my game in terms of my ground strokes, but I served great," Murray said. "Earlier this year a lot of people were saying that I needed to work on my serve and that it was one of my weaknesses. Now I think it's one of the biggest strengths of my game.
"Federer had only three break points against me and he only broke me once in a long match. Today I didn't have any break points against me playing a guy who's a very good returner."
A local journalist asked whether Murray felt he was the best British player since Fred Perry, the country's last winner of a Grand Slam tournament 72 years ago. "No!" he replied. "Tim definitely was much, much better than me over the eight or nine years that he was in the top 10. He was always playing well at Wimbledon and reached the semi-finals of three of the Grand Slams. I've still got a long way to go to achieve what he did."
British No 1's summer of fun
Comes back from two sets down to beat Richard Gasquet in four-hour thriller and reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final before losing in straight sets to Rafael Nadal
Beats World No 3 Novak Djokovic for first time in five attempts to reach his fourth Masters Series semi-final, in which he is beaten by Nadal
Wins his first Masters Series title, beating Djokovic in straight sets in the final. Subsequently climbs to career-high No 6 in world rankings
Loses in first round in straight sets to Yen-Hsun Lu, of Taiwan
Beats Nadal for first time to reach his first Grand Slam final and secure place in season-ending Tennis Masters Cup. Loses in straight sets to Roger Federer but leaves New York as world No 4
Wins both his singles rubbers in World Group play-off against Austria at Wimbledon, which Britain lose 3-2
Earns swift revenge for US Open final defeat by beating Federer in semi-final. Beats Gilles Simon in final to claim second successive Masters Series title