June 1, 2014
After four hours and seven minutes, Andy Murray pinged a sizzling backhand deep past Philipp Kohlschreiber and crouched down on the clay to let out a triumphant yell. He had finally sealed a precious win by 12-10 in the fifth. The match had lasted almost as long as the Brit had been able to sleep overnight.
Murray managed a smile after reaching the last sixteen, though. He could afford to grin, having overcome his nerves in unfamiliar territory.
Andy admitted; ‘Last night was extremely tough, I was up a break in every set but we went in 7-7. Both of us came out pretty nervous but it was outstanding. I didn’t sleep much. I was ready to play at four or five in the morning (Sunday). I only slept five hours. It was a new experience for me, having a match stopped overnight in such a big tournament. But I was cramping in my hamstring and quad so maybe it is just as well that they stopped it.’
The marathon had straddled two days and Murray must work on his first serve as a matter of priority.
It doesn’t matter what surface you’re playing on, you won’t dominate a top player by trying to survive on your second serve alone. Andy’s new coach, whoever he or she may be, will have to address that growing problem as swiftly as possible between the French Open and Wimbledon.
Kohlschreiber, world number 28, took the first set 6-3. Murray seized the next two by the same score, then the German hit back to win the fourth 6-4. Play had been suspended on Saturday night at a tantalising 7-7 in the fifth. Murray squandered a match point at 9-8 and almost habitually wasted that wayward first serve. Some hit the net, others flew so deep that they almost bounced out of court.
But the Wimbledon champion came up with two extraordinary shots to keep his hopes alive. A drive-volley from near the baseline was as courageous as it was brillant. Even better was a wrap-around cross-court forehand which seemed impossible and left Kohlschreiber shaking his head in disbelief.
The underdog was hitting the ball more cleanly for much of Sunday, yet Murray managed to hang in there for long enough to make his opponent crumble at the final hurdle.
Murray faces Fernando Verdasco in the next round. He will have to raise his game considerably in order to prevail. But a decent run at Roland Garros will at least boost his confidence in time for Wimbledon.
Meanwhile in the women’s tournament, Eugenie Bouchard produced a scintillating display to announce herself as a genuine contender for French Open glory.
The 20-year-old Canadian destroyed the higher-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany 6-1, 6-2 with a wonderful combination of confidence and technique.
Maria Sharapova, the biggest name left in the draw, will take note going into the second week.
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