Andy Murray digs deep to avoid Monte Carlo exit

Andy Murray plays a return during the victory over France's Benoit Paire. Picture: Lionel Cironneau/AP
Andy Murray plays a return during the victory over France's Benoit Paire. Picture: Lionel Cironneau/AP
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Andy Murray avoided following Novak Djokovic in making an early exit from the Monte Carlo Masters after swerving a third-round defeat to world No 21 Benoit Paire.

On the day after top seed Djokovic suffered a surprise three-set loss to Czech player Jiri Vesely, world No 2 Murray was forced to launch a late comeback against fiery local hopeful Paire.

The first ever meeting between the two men finished 2-6, 7-5, 7-5 in Murray’s favour and he will next face Milos Raonic, who beat Tomas Berdych’s conqueror, Damir Dzumhur, in the last eight.

Paire gained the upper hand after only three games in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, the plucky 26-year-old breaking his Scottish opponent before pushing on to take a 5-1 lead.

Unforced errors from the Frenchman helped Murray claw a game back but the unpredictable Paire managed to wrap up the first set inside 30 minutes.

Avignon’s Paire – employing his smooth backhand and visibly boosted by his aggression on the second serve – rattled off three more games before Murray broke back and held to stem the tide.

The 2013 Wimbledon champion was struggling to combat Paire’s incessant drop shots and took a long time to win a protracted tussle when 4-3 down, finally wresting a one-game lead in the match.

Murray then channelled the grit that saw him rally to beat low-ranking Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the opening round. As the temperamental Paire began to implode, Murray clinched the second set 7-5.

The Frenchman’s sharp decline did not carry through to the decider, though, and he matched Murray blow for blow until, at the end of the ninth game, he emerged victorious from a long battle at deuce.

It was not enough. In the end Murray’s top-level experience paid off and after two-and-a-half frenetic hours, the Scot powered his way into a fourth-round meeting with Canadian No 1 Raonic.

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