By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. Open champion Andy Murray recovered from a sticky start to beat Tomas Berdych in his first match on home soil since winning his maiden grand slam title as the ATP World Tour Finals began in London's Docklands on Monday.
World number three Murray was greeted on court at the cavernous O2 Arena like a returning hero but the crowd became subdued as Berdych took the first set before the Scot turned things round to win 3-6 6-3 6-4 in the opening Group A clash.
World number one Novak Djokovic, the man Murray conquered to win his first grand slam title less than two months ago in New York, opens against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga later on Monday.
Murray's inability to convert the numerous break points he engineered almost cost him against Czech Berdych, who himself wasted a golden opportunity to take complete control of the match early in the second set.
The Olympic champion was 15-40 ahead on Berdych's serve in the opening game of the match and was 0-40 up in fifth game but was frustrated as Berdych produced some brutal attacking tennis to stay on level terms.
A spurt of 13 points out of 15 midway through the first set, including a crucial service break in the sixth game when Murray yanked a forehand low into the net, allowed fifth seed Berdych to move ahead and grab the opening set in 45 minutes.
"Some of the time in the first set he just completely overpowered me," Murray told reporters.
Things then reached crisis point for Murray at 1-1, 15-40 in the second set but his opponent let him off the hook.
At 30-40 Murray looped in a sluggish second serve and Berdych's eyes lit up as he lined up to club away an inviting forehand. The 27-year-old Czech could hardly believe it when he missed the court by the width of a ball.
It proved costly as Murray carved out some more chances in the following game, finally converting his 11th break point before going on to take control.
"Both of us I thought served pretty well and weren't losing too many points on our first serve, so it can hinge on a couple of points here or there," said Murray.
"That definitely gave me the advantage in the second set. But the third set was tight as well."
With the near 17,000 crowd finally coming to life and Murray firing himself up, the Scot began to dominate the exchanges as Berdych ran out of fireworks.
After leveling the match Murray gained a decisive break of serve in the third game of the decider and held on for victory, only his fourth in eight matches against Berdych, sealing it when his opponent slapped a backhand into the net.
Defending champion Roger Federer begins on Tuesday against world number nine Janko Tipsarevic, who qualified for the eight-man finale in the absence of the injured Rafael Nadal.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, Editing by Tom Pilcher)
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