Wednesday 24 January 2018

Murray digs deep for dramatic victory

Paul Newman at Roland Garros

Perhaps officials in Paris should consider relocating Andy Murray's matches across the city from Stade Roland Garros to the Palais-Royal, home of the state theatre company.

Twelve months after he reached the semi-finals of the French Open, despite an ankle injury sustained early in the tournament, Murray was at the centre of more high drama here yesterday as he overcame a painful back problem to beat Finland's Jarkko Nieminen 1-6 6-4 6-1 6-2 and book his place in the third round.

When Murray called for the trainer after going 4-0 down in the first set his prospects looked bleak. The world No 4, who was given extensive treatment on court and sent for the trainer on two more occasions, looked barely capable of walking, let alone running. When he lost the first set his entourage wanted him to throw in the towel.

Murray, nevertheless, is nothing if not a fighter and, as the back spasms started to subside, he fought his way back from 2-4 down in the second set.

Thereafter he looked much more like his old self, while Nieminen, apparently disoriented by his opponent's remarkable recovery, could hardly put a ball in court. Murray won 16 of the last 19 games to seal victory in two hours and 27 minutes. "I just couldn't believe I had won," he said.

Damage

The Scot has been troubled by a sporadic back problem for the last six months, but insisted afterwards that this was a one-off and that he had been advised he would not cause any further damage by playing.

Murray has been criticised in the past for making a meal of his physical problems and Virginia Wade, commentating on Eurosport, said he had been "a drama queen" against Nieminen and was "not really acting in an adult way."

When told of the former Wimbledon champion's comments, Murray said: "To me that's quite disappointing, to be honest. I know how I felt on the court. I know how bad it was. And then you have people like that who always have to come out and say something controversial, when really they should be supportive, or maybe ask me a question first.

"I've known her since I was a really young kid. She used to do coaching stuff with my mum since I was a really young child, so to me that's quite disappointing. She has no idea what I was feeling on the court. She doesn't know what was happening 20 minutes before I went out on to the court, what I was feeling, what I was doing."

Next up for Murray is 24-year-old Colombian Santiago Giraldo who beat Bernard Tomic 6-4 6-1 6-3.

While Murray struggled, Rafael Nadal was superb against Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin. The Spaniard, who is aiming to take the title here for the seventh time in eight years, won 6-2 6-2 6-0.

Li Na, the women's champion, brushed aside France's Stephanie Foretz-Gacon 6-0 6-2, while Petra Kvitova and Caroline Wozniacki were also impressive. Kvitova beat Urszula Radwanska 6-1 6-3 and Wozniacki overcame Jarmila Gajdosova 6-1 6-4.

Wozniacki, who is flying a bit under the radar here after a poor start to the year which has seen her drop from world No 1 to ninth spot, is confident that her partnership with new coach Thomas Johansson will bear fruit.

Johansson is not in Paris, but will link up again with Wozniacki when she gets back home to Monaco, where they both live. The 21-year-old said: "I worked with him for a couple weeks before (the French Open), and he's a great guy first of all. We have a good connection."

"He's played on the tour before. He's won the Australian Open. He has the experience. He knows the women players because he's been commentating.

"I think he can come with some advice and some maybe tactical things that he could see. He's a hard worker as well, and I think that really suits me.

"He tells me what he thinks and he's not soft. I don't like it when someone tells me: 'Oh, it's great, it's great' when it's actually terrible." (© Independent News Service)

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