Birthday boy Andy Murray battles past David Nalbandian
ANDY Murray was pushed to the limit by former Wimbledon runner-up David Nalbandian before booking his place in the third round of the Rome Masters with a 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 win.
There was no hint of the drama to follow when Murray, celebrating his 25th birthday and playing for the first time since missing the Madrid Masters with a back injury, swept through the first set and looked ready for a quick night. But Nalbandian battled back to level the match and went a break up in the decider before his frequent unforced errors began to tell and Murray clawed back to serve out for the match after two hours and 37 minutes.
“I was very happy to come through today. I had to fight very hard,” admitted Murray. “This is great preparation for the French Open. Hopefully I can have a decent run here. I hit the ball well in the first set and at the end of the match but there was a period when I let him dictate the match.”
There were no signs in the first set of Murray’s stuttering start to the season, which apart from his back injury also saw him suffer a shock loss to Milos Raonic in the Barcelona Open last month.
Murray broke Nalbandian twice to blaze into a 4-0 lead and served out to take the set, with Nalbandian complaining about glare from the setting sun.
Nalbandian looked much stronger from the start of the second set and both players found their form on serve with no break points for either until Murray served to stay in the set at 4-5 down and was broken.
Murray had the first chance in the decider, fashioning two break points on the Nalbandian serve at 1-1, but the Argentine hung on and went on to break Murray to seize the advantage. But Murray responded by breaking back immediately and grabbed the crucial second break at 5-5 when, after spurning his first two of three break points, he only converted the third after the most fortunate of net cords.
Nalbandian was not quite finished, going 15-40 up on his opponent’s serve as Murray served for the match, but a backhand drive which clipped the outside of the line helped Murray haul back to deuce before rounding off a gutsy win.
Meanwhile, The Lawn Tennis Association has once again been forced to defend itself against charges of failure and financial profligacy by the chairwoman of the All Party Tennis Group, Baroness Billingham.
Billingham, a long-standing critic of the organisation, used the Queen’s Speech debate in the House of Lords yesterday to brand the LTA a “total shambles”, and called on Sports Minister Hugh Robertson to order an inquiry.
The LTA, who strongly dispute the majority of the allegations levelled by Billingham, said: “The speech contained a number of inaccuracies that do not reflect a true picture of British tennis.”
Billingham was part of the All Party Tennis Group that levelled similar allegations two years ago when asked to investigate the governing body by the then Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe in the wake of a Davis Cup defeat to Lithuania. Despite a heavy loss to Belgium last month in Davis Cup Euro-African Zone I, some progress has been made, in particular at women’s world-class level, with four Britons currently in the world’s top 150.
Billingham said: “The LTA are a total shambles, tottering from one broken pledge to another, the British press and the world’s press aghast at the huge cost and pathetic results of six years of mismanagement. It is pitiful.
“I call on Hugh Robertson, the Minister for Sport, to set up an urgent review and inquiry into British tennis. He must insist on transparency of all expenditure and salaries, especially given the LTA receives taxpayers’ money.”
The LTA insist the public are beginning to see improvements. Great Britain won the junior Davis Cup for the first time last year and three British boys made the semi-finals of the US Open, including the eventual winner, Oliver Golding.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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