Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal produced emphatic responses to the critics as they kicked off their ATP Tour Finals campaigns in dominant fashion on Monday.
Murray silenced the doubters who claimed he was distracted by dreams of Davis Cup glory with a gritty 6-4 6-4 win over David Ferrer, while Nadal, beset by problems during the worst year of his career, showed he isn’t finished yet with a 6-3 6-2 thrashing of French Open champion Stan Wawrinka.
Former Wimbledon champion Murray has made it clear his main priority in the closing weeks of the season is Great Britain’s attempt to win the Davis Cup for the first time since 1936 in their first final since 1978.
Britain face Belgium in the final on clay in Ghent next week and Murray had initially suggested he might pull out of the Tour Finals to fine-tune his preparations for the Davis Cup.
After learning of potential sanctions from the ATP if he withdrew, Murray settled for spending most of last week practising his clay-court game across London at Queen’s Club before arriving at the O2 on Friday.
It was hardly ideal preparation and inevitably Murray’s commitment against Ferrer was under close scrutiny from cynics who doubted whether the world No.2 really wanted to risk injury with the Davis Cup just around the corner.
But Murray assuaged those worries with a typically whole-hearted 90-minute display to see off Ferrer in his opening group match in the prestigious season-ending event.
“If I didn’t play here, I would have gone three weeks or something without playing a match before the Davis Cup Final,” Murray said.
“Obviously it’s a different surface here, but playing matches against the best players in the world is also fantastic preparation.
“I feel good just now. Hopefully I can perform well here and in Belgium. I believe that I’ve given myself the best chance to do that.”
Wawrinka, meanwhile, made the perfect start against Nadal, who had lost three of his last four encounters with the Swiss, as he earned a break in the opening game, but that was the cue for the Spaniard to spring into action.
Nadal broke back in the next game and wore down Wawrinka in a marathon eighth game that lasted nearly seven minutes to secure a second break that settled the set.
The Tour Finals is one of the few major prizes to have escaped Nadal in his glittering career and winning it this week would at least partially salvage his disappointing year.
Aided by 35 unforced errors from Wawrinka, Nadal took the first step to that goal as he broke twice in the second set to seal the win.