Federer too strong for Murray
Andy Murray's season ended in defeat by Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London on Sunday night - but he was far from downcast.
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The world number three was beaten 7-6 (7/5) 6-2 by the defending champion, who will now bid for a third successive title in Monday's final against Novak Djokovic.
Murray rather fell away after a great start at London's O2 Arena but could be nothing but positive at the end of a year that brought him both Olympic gold and the US Open title, the first grand slam singles crown for a British man since 1936.
"It was an incredibly positive year," the 25-year-old said. "I would have loved to finish the year on a win, of course. I'm sure Roger and Novak both will tomorrow.
"But I wouldn't say whoever wins or loses the match tomorrow will look back on the year with huge disappointment. I think both of them have played really well this whole year and I have to try to view it the same.
"It's been the best year of my career by a mile. So why I would look back on that negatively now would be silly because I've achieved things I've never achieved before."
It was a measure of how far Murray has come in 2012 under the guidance of Ivan Lendl that he went into the clash as many people's favourite against a man who has lost only one match at the O2 since 2009.
That came on Saturday against Juan Martin Del Potro when Federer was already through to the semi-finals and he has won more titles - six - and matches than anyone else at the season-ending tournament.
The on-court announcer prematurely hailed Federer as the 2012 champion before the match had even started, but if he finds the same form tomorrow then Djokovic, a 4-6 6-3 6-2 winner over Del Potro earlier, will have his work cut out.
It was all so different at the start as Murray came out firing, breaking Federer's serve in the first game and pushing for a second as the world number two struggled to find his forehand.
But Federer dug in and hit back to level at 4-4, and from then on Murray was the one under pressure.
He forced a tie-break but smacked his racquet on the court in frustration after losing an epic point that gave Federer a 6-4 lead, and the champion took his second set point.
Murray needed a good start to the second set but was broken from 40-0 in the third game and there never looked like being a way back from there as Federer gave an exhibition of all his sumptuous skills.
"I think he played well," Murray added. "I didn't think it was an incredibly high standard in terms of the length of points. There were a lot of quick points.
"I started the match well. He came back in, got the tie-break. If you watched the game where I got broken from 40-0 in the second set, that was because I hit three drop shots in that game and missed a regulation backhand in the net.
"Once he gets ahead he's incredibly hard to stop. He tends to play better and better when he gets up. I feel like I gave him that advantage at the beginning of the second set."
The atmosphere was raucous throughout but, unlike the Wimbledon and Olympic finals - the former won by Federer, the latter by Murray - the support was clearly greater for the Swiss.
That did not come as a surprise to the home favourite, who added: "Almost all the times when you play Roger anywhere in the world he gets great support everywhere. He deserves that because of everything that he's achieved."
Federer was not too surprised the support was weighted towards him, saying: "We have played here twice before, and twice the crowds were amazing, electric, and sometimes even in my favour. So today was somewhat similar again.
"I do respect their support, obviously, and don't take it for granted. I think it's very special I do have amazing crowd support all around the world, not just here in England where I probably have achieved some of my greatest moments in my life."
The 31-year-old admitted he could not remember the last time he was not well supported in a match.
He added: "I always get a lot, but sometimes the opponent gets more. It's been a long, long time since I haven't gotten any support. Let's put it that way."
Murray had been hoping to extend a run of five successive sets against Federer following the Olympic final and last month's semi-final clash in Shanghai.
The defending champion was happy his aggressive tactics had paid off, and he will be looking to do the same on Monday.
Federer said: "I was looking at having lost the last two matches against him, so I thought it was up to me to change things around really and come up with a game plan that maybe was different than at the Olympics or Shanghai.
"So the pressure was really on me. I'm happy with what I chose with my coaching staff today.
"Obviously the tournament's not over yet, I want to keep on playing well, but I'm happy that the offensive play did pay off and it gives me confidence to play more like that tomorrow."