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On Friday, the final day of round-robin matches at the Barclays ATP World Tour Final
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On Friday, the final day of round-robin matches at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, there are still six scenarios by which two of three players in Group John McEnroe can make the semifinals. One of them -- wins by Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori in two and three sets, respectively -- would actually send No. 1-ranked Andy Murray, author of a 21-match win streak, home to the London suburbs.Over in Group Ivan Lendl on Thursday night, it wasnt nearly as complicated. When No. 4 Milos Raonic met No. 9 Dominic Thiem, it was win and in.At this year-end tournament missing Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer, here was a glimpse into the future of mens tennis, a battle between the two youngest qualifiers in London, a pair of heavy hitters destined to be top-10 players for quite some time.Raonic, 25, had just one more Finals appearance on his résumé than the first-time Thiem, 23. That experience -- and a nearly unreturnable serve -- manifested itself in a sparkling 7-6 (5), 6-3 victory.In the pivotal first-set tiebreaker, Raonic hit aces on his final three service swings.Hes also had some high-powered consultants watching from his box. In addition to primary coach Riccardo Piatti, Carlos Moya and John McEnroe sat side-by-side. Thats a total of eight Grand Slam singles titles.Thats why you have three guys, Raonic joked afterward. If the first two arent right, maybe the other one will be.McEnroe was brought on for a stint during the grass-court season, and Raonic responded by reaching his first Grand Slam final. McEnroes mantra was to encourage Raonic to come forward more often to take advantage of his huge serve and wingspan. While the quickness of the O2 Arena court didnt allow an excessive amount of that, the conditions suited Raonic. Thiem, who doesnt quite have Raonics reach, is more comfortable on clay.And now the possibility of a Sunday final showdown between Murray and Novak Djokovic, with the No. 1 ranking on the line, looms large.Earlier Thursday, the No. 2 Djokovic dismantled alternate David Goffin, playing for injured Gael Monfils (rib), 6-1, 6-2 in 70 minutes. Djokovic awaits the second-place finisher in the McEnroe Group in Saturdays semifinals.By defeating Wawrinka in the Friday afternoon session, Murray will advance to the semifinals for the first time in four years. That (and four of the other scenarios) would land him a meeting with Raonic, against whom he is 8-3, including 5-0 in 2016.The Canadian is playing the best tennis of his life, relying on one of the best serves on the planet. Against Thiem, he won 86 percent of his first-serve points, collected 13 aces and did not face a break point.Its a great match for me, Raonic said afterward in an on-court interview. It wasnt a round-robin match for us; it was a quarterfinal. I was fortunate to get through today.Thiem, whose forehand is one of the tours heaviest and whose one-handed backhand is lovely to behold, looked a little weary. After playing a terrific first set, he was broken on his first service game in the second. Thiems last shot was a weak backhand into the net on Raonics second match-point opportunity.This was Thiems 82nd match of the year, second only to Murrays 84. He was trying to become the youngest semifinalist in London since Juan Martin del Potro in 2009, but he finished with 57 match wins.After the then-22-year-old Thiem beat 19-year-old Alexander Zverev in the fourth round of the French Open this spring, he concluded, Such a great player, Sascha, and, yeah, I think the difference today was maybe probably the three years age difference.That also was the case with Raonic, who had lost his only two previous matches in London, to Federer and Murray in 2014, before pulling out with a thigh injury. Here hes won two of three matches (also beating Monfils) and pushed Djokovic into two tiebreakers. Raonic led in both frames but failed to hold his serve -- and his nerve.Those [key] moments he stepped up and played well, Raonic explained afterward. I just maybe hesitated a little bit too much.In Saturdays semifinal, most likely against Murray, Raonic will have to fly into those momentous occasions at full speed. 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India 417 (Jadeja 90, Ashwin 72, Kohli 62, Jayant 55, Pujara 51, Stokes 5-73, Rashid 4-118) and 104 for 2 (Parthiv 67*) beat England 283 (Bairstow 89) and 236 (Root 78, Hameed 59*) by eight wickets Scorecard and ball-by-ball detailsIt took, perhaps, a little longer than may have been expected but India duly cantered to an eight-wicket victory in Mohali and unassailable 2-0 lead in the series. That it was not until after tea that they knocked off the runs was largely down to a resilient display from Haseeb Hameed, batting at No. 8 due to his finger injury which was confirmed as tour-ending, who ended unbeaten on 59 but the target was swiftly dealt with by Parthiv Patels 54-ball 67.Hameeds innings put into context the wasteful batting that had pockmarked Englands performance. They were chasing the game since the opening session, when they handed three wickets of the four wickets to fall for India, who only briefly let them back into the contest during that frenetic period after tea on the second day when they lost 3 for 8.England began the fourth day 56 behind with six wickets hand and though Joe Root helped England erase the deficit during the morning session by then two further wickets had been shipped. When Root departed for 78, sharply held a slip, there were visions of a swift conclusion to the match but Hameed dug in and Chris Woakes played positively to persuade India that the new ball was needed. It was used with potent effect by Mohammed Shami who claimed two wickets in three deliveries. Hameed was eventually left stranded when James Anderson was slow coming back for a second run.M Vijays diminishing returns since his century in Rajkot continued when he fell for a duck, edging a short ball from Woakes to slip, but Parthiv led Indias surge to the target - in the process creating a potential selection-poser should Wriddhiman Saha be fit - while Cheteshwar Pujara was content to play within himself, avoiding a regular diet of bouncers, until top-edging a sweep with 15 required.It was noticeable how Englands quicks went for a concerted short-pitched attack early in Indias chase, something that had been missing with the game in the balance on the third morning, but barring Ben Stokes herculean efforts they were out-bowled by the India pacemen.That was no better highlighted than by Shamis use of the second new-ball. He rattled Woakes with a short ball, which hammered into his helmet and dislodged the stem guard, then following up with another pinpoint short delivery which Woakes could only fend behind to the keeper. Two balls later, Adil Rashid was also boounced out, hooking to fine leg.ddddddddddddThe extent of Hameeds injury was still not clear when he came in below Jos Buttler, but Alastair Cook confirmed after play that he required surgery. It was to his immense credit that he did not appear in significant discomfort although needed further painkillers during his stay.It took him 19 balls to get off the mark and he needed 111 deliveries to score his first boundary, which came with a slog-sweep against R Ashwin. He had also been given a life on 6 when Parthiv could not gather a tough chance off Ashwin. When he was joined by last-man Anderson he had 23 off 127 balls, but then showed the other side to his game. He took on Shami and, when he was somewhat surprisingly removed from the attack, continued to take on both Aswhin and Ravindra Jadeja with his fifty coming up off 147 deliveries when he slog-swept for six over deep midwicket.It had not taken long for India to make their first breakthrough when nightwatchman Gareth Batty propped forward at Jadejas second ball of the day and was given lbw. Root and Buttler responded with intent: Buttler came down the pitch to loft Jadeja over long-off and Root scampered hard between the wickets. For a short period it was reminiscent of a one-day partnership and Virat Kohli relaxed his attacking fields a little.However, when a batsman such as Buttler is keen to dominate - which was not without merit - the scouts in the deep become wicket-taking catchers and so it proved when Buttler miscued Jayant Yadav to deep midwicket.Hameed was never going to opt for the Buttler route so it was left to Root to do the majority of the run-scoring while he bedded in. Shami went short at him for a brief period, to try and target the injured hand, but with the old ball the pacemens main threat continued to be reverse swing with both Shami and Umesh Yadav finding prodigious movement on occasions.Roots half-century, his second-slowest in Test cricket, was brought up with his third boundary and he then became engaged in a tussle with Ashwin. A cover drive and strong sweep went Roots way, but attempting another sweep he was fortunate to escape as it looped over the wicketkeeper. It was another bowling change which ended his resistance - another call that worked for Kohli in this match - when Root drove at a delivery from Jadeja which gripped enough to take the edge. Both sides catching has been fallible in this match, but Rahanes snaffle to his left was superb. ' ' '
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