French Open: Andy Murray up and running as he eases to win over Ito
THERE were no real alarms for Andy Murray as he eased into the second round of the French Open with a 6-1, 7-5, 6-0 victory over Tatsuma Ito of Japan.
Having had to wait three days to kick off his campaign at Roland Garros, the fourth seed clearly did not want to hang around on Court Suzanne Lenglen and he won the first five games in less than 20 minutes.
Ito improved significantly in the second set and had points for a 5-3 lead but he could not take them and in the end Murray ran out a comfortable winner to set up a second-round match against Finn Jarkko Nieminen.
Later, Murray said that he felt he had handled Ito’s purple patch well. “If you concentrate on your side of the court and don’t give up too many free points yourself, then it’s fine,” explained the Scot.
“If you’re making mistakes and playing a patchy match yourself, then it can become difficult. It can be very up and down, but I didn’t do that today. I just tried to give a bit more height on the ball. With his game style, he’s quite a flat hitter of the ball. He liked it when the ball was between his waist and shoulders.
“I just gave the ball a little bit more height, a little bit more variation, and he started to make mistakes. That was it. You just go and try to find a way of getting through it, and I did that.
“He’s a good player. This happens. There’s a reason why he’s in the top 70 players in the world. Tennis is very strong just now.
“You expect guys to be able to play well and he played well for a period of the match. But in the slams you have to play well for long periods of matches, and that’s the difference between winning and losing a lot of the time.”
Troubled by a back problem, Murray has not been in great form during the clay-court season but he was positive about his fitness heading into the tournament and was a huge favourite to beat Ito.
The 24-year-old Japanese player is at a career-high ranking of 68 but has been competing mostly on hard courts in the Far East and was making his main-draw debut at the French Open.
It did not get off to an auspicious start as a relaxed-looking Murray broke serve at the third attempt in Ito’s first service game, and then repeated the feat two games later.
The underdog at least avoided a bagel and managed to save three set points, one of them with a brilliant backhand return, before floating a backhand wide to hand Murray the set after 25 minutes.
The Scot began the second set in the same vein, reeling off eight straight points. But Ito, who was sticking to his pre-match promise to play his attacking game, gradually began to settle and, helped by his opponent, broke back to level at 2-2.
Two double faults and a backhand drilled long gave the Japanese player the game, and he suddenly began to look like he could cause Murray significant problems.
Ito was launching into his groundstrokes and he brought up three more break points in the eighth game but this time Murray held firm.
The Scot regained a measure of control but he continued to make life a little difficult for himself with three backhand errors as he let slip a 0-40 lead at 5-5. However, Ito netted a simple forehand to give him another chance and this time Murray did prevail when his opponent hit a forehand long.
Ito was mixing blazing winners with poor mistakes, and in the end that cost him as Murray served out the set to love.
That surely was Ito’s chance of an upset gone, and that feeling only increased at the start of the third when he netted a backhand to hand Murray another break.
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