There will be no quarter given when Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic meet for the seventh time this year at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London today.
The rivalry has been a huge feature of 2012 and the clash is easily the most eagerly-anticipated of the group stages at the O2 Arena.
Their head-to-head for the year is tied at three all and the key feature of the battles between the two is that they have been just that; brutal battles to the point of exhaustion.
Both their grand slam meetings lasted almost five hours, with Djokovic coming out on top in the Australian Open semi-finals before Murray turned the tables to win his first grand slam title at the US Open.
The last time they met was in the final of the Shanghai Masters last month, a three-set match that lasted three hours and 21 minutes in which Murray held five match points but Djokovic eventually came out on top.
The London crowd will be hoping for more of the same but for the loser today, and possibly even the winner, their chances of progress may depend on the result of their final round-robin match on Friday.
Murray said: “For me, anyway, there’s an understanding of how much you have to put into the match to win it. I think that’s just the nature of these matches.
“Both of us are very good retrievers, so often the points will go on a lot. Sometimes you feel like you need to win the point two or three times, which is tough and can be a little bit tiring.
“But we’ve played each other enough to know what to expect. We do practise with each other quite a lot, too. But it’s never quite the same as the matches, that’s for sure.”
Both players began their campaigns in London with victory on Monday, Murray fighting back from a set down to defeat Tomas Berdych while Djokovic saw off Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets.
All the players are feeling the effects of a long season, but world No 1 Djokovic knows he must expect more punishment today.
He said: “When I’m playing Andy, I need to be ready for long rallies and a physically demanding match. So I’m going to have a day to recover and get ready for my next challenge.
“Playing against Andy is always a big challenge. He has had lots of success in London, playing in his town, in front of his crowd, so he’ll have big support. It’s a big match.
“We know a lot about each other. I’m sure that we’re going to come up with some really good tennis.”
This is Murray’s first tournament back in London as a grand slam champion after he finally put questions about whether he would ever win one of tennis’ biggest crowns to bed in New York.
Apart from an inner calm, Murray has not yet felt too many benefits on the court, but he hopes they will come.
He said: “It’s hard to say because I’ve lost a few very tough matches since. But I hope when I’m playing the best players in the world I’ll believe in my shots a bit more and make sure to be aggressive when I can.
“I thought I did a good job of that (against Berdych).
“I tried to move forward and take his time away a little bit, which sometimes when I played him in the past, I’d let him dictate a lot of the points. I didn’t feel like I did that.
“They’re the things that, rather than it necessarily being just (a boost in) confidence, also just learning.
“Having won a few of the big events this year, and having lost a tough one in Australia against Novak, and at Wimbledon against Roger (Federer), I’ve learned a lot this year how I need to play those big points in big games.”
Federer wasted little time in opening the defence of his ATP World Tour Finals crown with a 6-3 6-1 victory over Janko Tipsarevic yesterday.
The Swiss star is looking for a hat-trick of titles in Greenwich and a seventh at the tournament overall having set a new record with his final triumph over Tsonga 12 months ago.
Federer opted against defending his Paris Masters crown last week to prepare for London and he certainly looked sharp as he brushed aside the challenge of Tipsarevic.
The Serb did play in the French capital but retired during the third set of his match with eventual runner-up Jerzy Janowicz because of dizziness and admitted on Monday he was not feeling 100 per cent.
Wimbledon champions Jonny Marray, of Sheffield, and Freddie Nielsen extended their winning streak in London in dramatic fashion with victory over Indian pair Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna in their opening match at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
The British-Danish duo’s success at SW19 as wild cards was one of the most unlikely stories of the sporting year and earned them a place at the end-of-season showpiece at the O2 Arena.
They made a great start yesterday, winning the opening set, and held a match point at 6-5 in the second but Marray’s return found the top of the net.
It looked like their chance had gone when the Indians levelled the match and then took a 5-1 lead in the match tie-break but Marray and Nielsen fought back to take an 8-7 lead.
Twice Bhupathi and Bopanna held match points, at 9-8 and 10-9, but Marray, 31, and Nielsen saved them both and then took their chance, with the Dane serving it out 6-4 6-7 (1/7) 12-10.