French Open: Andy Murray acting like a winner
AND they call Andy Murray a drama queen. With not so much as a grimace or a wince, Scotland’s finest marched into the fourth round, crushing the swift but slight Santiago Giraldo 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. What would Virginia Wade make of that?
Two days ago, as Murray looked to be within moments of throwing in the towel and pulling out of the Open with agonising muscle spasms in his back, La Wade laid into him. He was not, according to this well-known expert on men’s tennis, behaving in an “adult manner”, he was a “drama queen” and she felt sorry for his opponent that day, Jarkko Nieminen.
By Friday, he was feeling a little better and, by the time he took on Giraldo yesterday, the injury had improved significantly. And, once he had wrapped up the first set against the world No.50, Murray was looking in fine fettle. He was serving with venom – nine aces, four of them in a perfect game at the start of the second set – he was moving like a whippet after a rabbit and he was absolutely clobbering his forehand.
Only once was there a moment of concern. As he closed out the opening game of the match, he scampered forward, slammed on the brakes and slid. As he pulled up, he gingerly felt the area around his left hip – the source of the pain on Thursday – but there was not a moan or a groan, just a careful, slow walk back to his chair. But that was the only hint that Murray had any fitness worries.
“I spoke to a few people who had had a similar thing and they said normally in three or four days it can go away,” Murray said. “I woke up this morning feeling better than I did, but that’s because of the work my physio has done the last 48 hours and all the recovery work that we’ve done between the last match and now. With the rest, and doing all the right things, I felt better.”
Even when the Colombian went for broke, slapping his forehand and chasing everything down, Murray mopped up the pressure, bit his lip and tried to control his frustrations (he could see the winning line but Giraldo kept getting in the way). Keeping to his gameplan, Murray earned his ticket to the second week of the tournament in 122 minutes.
“I served very well in the first set and that really helped,” he said. “I was able to get a lot of free points on my serve. And once I started to get into the match and got ahead of him, I started hitting the ball well and started dictating all the points.
“I felt like I moved pretty well today. When you’re playing in slams, I just think each day you need to take as it comes. And I felt much better than I did the other day. I felt better than I did yesterday. So I’m hoping that tomorrow I’ll feel good again, and that’s all you’ve got to do, each day just be a little bit better.”
He will need to be on his mettle tomorrow when he faces Richard Gasquet. The gifted but mentally fragile Frenchman demolished Tommy Haas 6-7, 6-3, 6-0, 6-0 to book his seventh career meeting with Murray.
History dictates that when the two meet at a grand slam, the Scot comes out on top – twice at Wimbledon and once at Roland Garros – but it is a different story on the main tour. Just a couple of weeks ago, Gasquet beat Murray at the Italian Open in three sets, but back then he was still struggling with a different back injury. Still, give Murray five sets to play with and he seems to know how to beat the world No.20.
“I wouldn’t necessarily see myself as the favourite for the match,” Murray mused. “When he plays well, he’s a very, very tough guy to beat and he’s going to have the crowd behind him. But when I played him here last time, I hung in, I fought really hard, and just managed to turn the match around, and I did the same thing at Wimbledon.”
With another day of treatment from Andy Ireland, his physiotherapist, Murray ought to be pretty much back to full fitness by the time he plays again (accidents or emergencies notwithstanding). The workload ahead is fierce – after Gasquet he could find himself up against David Ferrer, who dropped just four games yesterday against Mikhail Youzhny.
But having survived his back problems and managed to come back in such style, Murray is looking relaxed, focused and ready for anything. After the traumas of the first week, nothing can be as bad again. Well, provided Virginia Wade keeps her trap shut, nothing can be as bad again.
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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