Tennis: Murray taken the distance once more

World No. 2 Andy Murray has reached the French Open third round the hard way after playing the maximum 10 sets. He insists that his recent split with coach Amelie Mauresmo has nothing to do with his temper or angry outbursts towards his support team.
World No. 2 Andy Murray has reached the French Open third round the hard way after playing the maximum 10 sets. He insists that his recent split with coach Amelie Mauresmo has nothing to do with his temper or angry outbursts towards his support team.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

He comes from behind to beat Bourgue a day after pipping Stepanek, plays Karlovic next

PARIS • Andy Murray survived a second fifth-set decider in as many days, coming from behind to defeat wild card Mathias Bourgue 6-2, 2-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in the French Open second round yesterday.

The Scot needed two days to see off 37-year-old Czech Radek Stepanek, the oldest man in the tournament, in the opening round after overturning a two-set deficit.

The world No. 2 faced a different challenge yesterday: 22-year-old Bourgue, who was playing at a Grand Slam for the first time.

The Frenchman's first-round win against Jordi Samper-Montana was enough to guarantee him US$67,000 (S$92,500) in prize money - twice as much as he has already earned this year on the lower tours.

But the world No. 164 showed no fear against the three-time semi-finalist at Roland Garros, even when he was 2-6, 0-2 down. He won the next eight games to take the score to 2-6, 6-2, 2-0.

No further breaks in the set meant Bourgue claimed the third, sealed with a winner down Murray's right-hand side.

But the Scot cut down on his unforced errors to get back into the match. After making 35 unforced errors in the opening three sets, he made just three in the fourth.

Murray got the first break of the decider in the fourth game. And an insurance break in the sixth game proved vital as he failed to serve out the match at 5-1. But the two-time Major champion closed out the match at the second time of asking.

Murray will next face Croatian Ivo Karlovic, who became the oldest man to reach the third round of a Grand Slam for 25 years.

The 37-year-old - three months younger than Stepanek - came through a marathon five-setter of his own against Australian Jordan Thompson yesterday.

Karlovic, seeded 27, banged down 41 aces in a 6-7 (2-7), 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) 6-7 (4-7), 12-10 victory against the 22-year-old wild card.

He broke serve at 10-10 and sealed a memorable victory with a volley after four hours and 31 minutes - the longest match of this year's tournament so far.

Jimmy Connors reached the third round at the French and US Opens in 1991, aged 38.

Karlovic will seek to make the last 16 in Paris for the first time when he takes on Murray, who has insisted that his parting with coach Amelie Mauresmo has nothing to do with his temper or angry outbursts towards his support team.

In an interview in L'Equipe, the French sports newspaper, at the weekend, Mauresmo had indicated that his difficulties in controlling his emotions on court had left her feeling that she could not achieve what she wanted as his coach.

L'Equipe then published an interview with Murray in which he spoke about his behaviour and how he is trying not to be so outraged when things are not going to plan.

However, after his win over Stepanek, Murray attempted to clarify the situation with his coach of almost two years.

"Me and Amelie have a very good relationship, and I don't think it's fair to try to say otherwise," he said.

"I did an interview before the tournament, before anything that Amelie had said had come out. Supposedly for the last two days I was hitting back at Amelie's comments and disagreeing with everything that she said, and that we had a really tough break-up. That simply is not true."

Murray said both had come to the conclusion that they were not spending sufficient time working together for it to be beneficial.

"When we sat down in Madrid, anyone who said it was heated is lying and was not there," he said.

"It was far from heated. We spoke very calmly the whole time. And to say that the reason that we stopped working together is because of my behaviour on the court, that is not true. In Madrid when we spoke, we didn't discuss that one time."

REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2016, with the headline 'Murray taken the distance once more'. Print Edition | Subscribe