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Murray survives stormy day in Paris

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Jonathan Overend | 21:02 UK time, Thursday, 26 May 2011

Andy Murray's win over Simone Bolelli might have been messy and taken the best part of three hours, but it was a job well done.

Murray escaped from a day of swirling winds, when many top names struggled, with a straight-sets win - a major result considering all three were tight.

Yes, we can pick holes in the his performance, and the string of break points was a cause for concern, but nobody will remember this six-out-of-10 performance if he wins the tournament.

And he's a lot closer to winning the title than Davydenko, Berdych, Almagro or Melzer, because they're all out.

Jurgen Melzer's a goner? Yup. Isn't he in Murray's section? He was.

Late on Thursday evening, the man who beat Roger Federer in Monte Carlo succumbed in five sets to the Czech qualifier Lukas Rosol. Murray's section is now open wider than the Place de la Concorde.

In terms of seeds, Viktor Troicki is now the main obstacle between Murray and the semi-finals. If that isn't "Happy Land" - the British media's word of the tournament after it was coined by Heather Watson - then I don't know what is.

So let's count our blessings that Murray is still in - Bolelli was useful and things could have been a lot worse.

muzza595.jpgAndy Murray kept his focus against Bolelli. Photo: Getty

Even Rafa Nadal found things tough out on Court Suzanne Lenglen. He's been on court for seven hours and 18 minutes over eight sets; most unusual figures after two rounds at Roland Garros.

After his five-set thriller with John Isner, the five-time champion was troubled by Pablo Andujar, the world number 48, who had so many set point chances in the third set people were losing count. Was it eight? That's the general consensus. The third set lasted more than an hour and a half.

Kim Clijsters was bundled out of the tournament by Arantxa Rus, a left-hander whose forehand scythes through the air a bit like Gasquet's backhand. There's nothing like a shot with an artistic follow-through and the Dutch player made the most of a sloppy Clijsters display.

The Belgian unusually dodged the main issue in the press conference afterwards, saying any blame towards her injured ankle would be the "talk of a loser", but she returned too soon and she knows it.

"Almost full healed" she tweeted, tellingly, on the eve of the tournament. She then confirmed she was having treatment on it after her first match.

Clijsters was nowhere near her true self as she offered up 65 unforced errors, and while restrictive movement wasn't an obvious issue, nobody can really say how much thoughts of the ankle played on her mind during rallies. Let's hope she's fully fit for Wimbledon and suggestions that she could soon retire again, which swirled around Roland Garros without any informed basis, are wide of the mark.

And what a struggle Maria Sharapova had. When she trailed the French 17-year-old Caroline Garcia 6-3 4-1, Andy Murray wasn't alone in suggesting the French wildcard could be a future world number one. For someone who doesn't make a habit of making outlandish statements, Murray's prediction is one worth remembering. Wimbledon folk would be well advised to give her consideration if, as usual, they are struggling to dish out the freebie places next week.

Sharapova, for her part, showed enormous mental strength to counter the conditions, and her opponent, and launch a stirring fight back.

Sadly, British teenager Watson couldn't cause a shock of her own as she was blown away by the power hitting of Kaia Kanepi. The Estonian gives it an almighty whack from the back of the court and unsettled the Guernsey teenager with weight of shot. When Watson got her on the move she had more success. It was an illustration of how tough the climb from top 100 to top 20 is going to be and an interesting lesson to learn.

But Watson's progress into the top 100 remains steady, assured and, most of all, exceedingly promising.

Elena Baltacha missed a chance agaisnt Vania King, having won the first set, but she goes into the grass-court season having picked up more ranking points on clay than ever before.

I was disappointed to see her moonballing in the first game of the deciding set - if ever there was a time to exert some authority it's in a game like that - but that's being picky.

Baltacha remains a shining example of perseverance and hard work. There is no reason why she couldn't win one of the grass-court tournaments in Nottingham to give her a massive boost going into Wimbledon.

I write this at 9.30pm on Court Phillipe Chatrier, the centre court of Roland Garros which has been half-full for most of the day, watching Gilles Simon and Jeremy Chardy slug it out in a fourth set. Hardly anybody is here to see it. All the folk, the same folk who earlier prefered lunch to Clijsters v Rus, have disappeared into the night.

On Friday they have scheduled the match of the round - Novak Djokovic versus Juan Martin del Potro - as the last of the day, in this same slot. They could be playing in gathering gloom, uncertain of getting finished. It's ridiculous.

Simon v Chardy ended at 9.38pm after four sets and two hours and 28 minutes, at the end of a schedule when the previous men's match lasted only three sets. What a risk the organisers are taking with their curious order of play.

And that's not the only thing: Federer's on Court Suzanne Lenglen for the second round in a row (when was the last time he played two successive matches away from Centre at a slam?), which suggests he's the forgotten man of the French Open.

Yes, Tsonga and Bartoli carry home hopes but, not for the first time here in Paris, the schedule is ridiculous. An international barnstormer of a match on the graveyard shift? A worldwide superstar on the periphery two rounds in a row? The defending champion (Francesca Schiavone, a real attraction) at the start of play for the second time?

There's so much to love about the French Open but so much more than just a rebuild required to keep pace with the other three majors.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    For the first time ever, I m delighted with the scheduling.Why shouldn t the top players be put on other courts.A.Rus froze for the first hour today against Kim,overawed by where she was.Happens at every Major,giving the top seeds an immediate advantage,Match can be nearly over before the "lesser"players begin to give their best.Well done to the organisers of the FO I say

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    The Tsonga match should be good, unlike the Bartoli one. But you can't blame the scheduling for empty stands, the French clearly don't like their tennis very much!

  • Comment number 4.

    Suppose you have to take the thick with the thin; when it's boring, they don't show, but when it isn't, they are parmesan partisan. Bad day for tennis when it's gusting degrees off.

    On Murray, you always have to worry with Andy where his mind is, because when he progresses deep into a Grand Slam on playing merit, like the past two Aussies and Wimbledons, he overcomes the first two opponents in straight sets (usually), with no tie-breaks, like Jan Hajek or someone, then gets taken to 4, or tie-breaks without moving too far through the gears....then ends up meeting a top 3 guy like Novak or Nadal for the semis or final and despite playing his best from the off gets overcome far too easily. On clay, though he is less at ease, he doesn't underestimate anyone, which is good, because he knows that on clay, he must graft rather than being his usual classy self. But I wish that attitude were carried on to his favourable surfaces.

  • Comment number 5.

    @1

    The top players should be put on the biggest courts as they are the players who pull the fans in. Why would tens of thousands of people want to come and watch two players, who most of them will not have heard of, play tennis? If the junior players can't hack being watched play, then they shouldn't be professional tennis players!

  • Comment number 6.

    I believe Murray is good enough to win a slam - it's just getting his mind in gear. He was two points from ending Djoko's run. If he could channel the anger into good play then he'd probably win a few slams. Invariably, when he's got into a slam final, he hasn't turned up. When I see the engaged Murray that almost beat Nadal at the ATP tour finals turn up at a grand slam final then I'll have hope he can finally do it.

  • Comment number 7.

    At 1: It like saying a non-league team drawing Man Utd in the FA cup and being told they can't play at Old Trafford but at Gay Meadows instead. These lower rank players i.e qualifiers, dream of playing on centre court and if it means playing Fed, Nad or Mur then i think they don't really mind. It prob once in a life time experience.

  • Comment number 8.

    I despair when I read comments like:

    "Jurgen Melzer's a goner? Yup. Isn't he in Murray's section? He was."

    So blinking what? This is a "loser's" attitude - that and the other article on how eays Murray's draw is. That is written by someone who doesn't understand how competitive sports work.

    If you are just trying to get a paycheque, then yes, it is great to get an easy draw to the latter stages of a competition. If, however, you want to win, then you don't look at a draw and say "Oh, it's an easy draw, I don't have to work to hard and should beat these folks... until round X". It is why whenever some hackneyed journo asks the top players about playing someone way below them in the rankings, you'll get the same reply about the fact that they don't underestimate anyone.

    If you are going to try and win a GS competition or be #1, you have assume that you will beat everyone or at least target that, and not focus on how "easy" the draw is.

    What about the guy who beat Melzer? It has happened several times where some "unknown" has beaten a seeded player and then gone on to knock other players out as they progress, blowing predictions of "an easy draw" out of the water.

    /rant

  • Comment number 9.

    1: I doubt it bothered Federer one bit where he plays or whether there are any fans at all. It's more a point of putting the top matches on where they can sell the most tikets and give the fans the best action for their money.

  • Comment number 10.

    8.
    At 08:24 27th May 2011, Carlos R wrote:

    I despair when I read comments like:

    "Jurgen Melzer's a goner? Yup. Isn't he in Murray's section? He was."

    So blinking what? This is a "loser's" attitude - that and the other article on how eays Murray's draw is. That is written by someone who doesn't understand how competitive sports work.
    ---------------------

    Sorry Carlos but you are the one who doesn't seem to understand how tourament play works.

    Nobody is suggesting that Murray can take it easy, meerly that he should find it easier if he performs properly, which in turn should leave him with better physical shape in later rounds.

  • Comment number 11.

    Murray out next round, his brother will go futher than him, allbeit in the doubles :)

    Novak or Rafa to win

  • Comment number 12.

    @ Hackerjack (post 10)

    I disagree with you. I fully understand that in knock-out competitions you can only play who is in front of you, but I took Mr Overend's comment to mean that because Melzer was out, it would make Murray's passage to the next round (or whichever round he was "due" to face him) easier.

    If you read it another way, then so be it, but I annoys me when reports talk about "an easy route to the final" in whatever competition/sport (e.g. for world cups as well). If you really aspire to be the best you'll be happy to play anyone. Indeed the best competitors look for the biggest challenges, and would rather test themselves against the best (and win, of course!).

    I bet money that Federer and Nadal don't "plot" their way through a competition in terms of how "easy" their route to the final is. Sure they'll assess who their are playing against, but from a tactical point of view.

  • Comment number 13.

    A lot of nonsense in here.
    It's grand slam time, Murray's won his first two matches and his section of the draw "is now wide open", implying that he now only has to turn up to win. So, no pressure on him as usual !!
    How many times has Murray been touted as the winner early in the first week of a slam tournament? Murray may well win a Grand Slam tournament one day, but Roland Garros 2011 will not be it.

    As for Federer being the forgotten man because he has played two rounds away from Centre Court. Well, Suzanne Lenglen is still a show court. He's hardly being cast out to the periphery is he. It probably doesn't bother him in the least

  • Comment number 14.

    Apart from the ongoing issues with his serve ... first is not reliable under pressure, second weak although better than it used to be ... the only thing holding Murray back from being a Grand Slam winner is Murray himself.

    For me, to be ranked 4 in the world and make three Slam finals without winning even a single set tells its own story.

  • Comment number 15.

    British tennis top star Andy Murray has experience and the necessary game tools to go far in this Grand Slam. Best wishes.


    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    You know something: Murray with a dodgy ankle might be more dangerous than a fully fit Murray.

    He'll know that he needs to attack far more, be far more decisive and that's what it'll take to win a Grand Slam.

    He won't beat Djokovic, Federer or Nadal playing forward defensives, that's for sure.

    So if he can use his injury to his advantage, he can play himself into the champions' mentality.

  • Comment number 18.

    Let's hope Andy can emulate Tim Henman in 2004 when he beat Juan Ignacio Chela to make it to the semis of the French.

  • Comment number 19.

    murray is looking like he is getting in some good form, hopefully he will continue his run at queens club then wimbledon
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 20.

    I do dismay when Andy Murray swears and loses his temper.He should heed the advice of John Lloyd who whilst commenting on Murray's behaviour in the Stroiskie match.Lloyd said Andy should now act like No 4 in the World.That Nadal Federer and Djokovic keep their cool and earn the respect of lesser players because they do.When less talented players than Andy see him losing his cool they feel they can exploit his bad behaviour because with it comes a lack of concentration.I think that all that lies between Andy and winning his first Grand Slam is his temper tantrums.He is a GREAT player let down by his volatile temprement.

  • Comment number 21.

    Sheilah

    They have all had their moments but Murray does strop more than the others and it is one of the least appealing features of his game.

    Still he showed some grit yesterday wrapping up the match and Rafa is not looking invincible so who knows, although the Joker is going to be hard to beat.

  • Comment number 22.

    http://samhopwood.blogspot.com/2011/06/fantastic-final-french-four.html

    Some interesting semi's look like they're on their way...

  • Comment number 23.

    Another heart-in-mouth performance from Murray who seems to thrive on giving his fans as much stress as they can stand. He can't do this against Nadal - he'll have to to go all out against him in the semi-final and not mess about if he has any chance of progressing to the Final which he is well capable of. I sometimes think he needs a mantra to help him calm down when he is at his most troubled. It could be something as simple as that.

  • Comment number 24.

    Sheer quality by Federer this evening, in a real quality match.
    Turns out the greatest is still too great on his day.

  • Comment number 25.

    It takes two players to make a great match but Federer was sublime at times - he may not be able to sustain that level of play but it is a treat to see him reprise his best form and of course we have the dream final.

    Possibly Federers best chance against Rafa for a while.

    Djok played superbly at times and I was impressed by his sporting behaviour - no disgrace going down to the GOAT.

 

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