Simon

Andy Murray Survives Against French Wild Card In Another Five-Setter At Roland Garros

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

French wild card Mathias Bourgue gave Andy Murray another scare at the French Open on Wednesday as he forced the two-time major champion to five sets. Murray, who had to come back from two sets to love down to beat Radek Stepanek in the first round, had to fight back from a two sets to one hole in the second round, eventually earning the 6-2, 2-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 win.

The No. 2 seeded Murray was not only battling the spirited wild card, but also the French faithful on Court Philippe-Chatrier who gave their full support to Bourgue throughout the match as he gave the crowd much more to cheer for than anticipated.

The match began as most would have expected as Murray raced out to a 6-2, 2-0 lead, but that was where the match turned on its head as Bourgue was able to roll off a six-game win streak, taking the set and leveling the match at one set all.

The Frenchman was able to battle back thanks to a dip in concentration for Murray that led to him making too many unforced errors. “It wasn’t like I was not there mentally, but I just couldn’t find the court,” said Murray.

Bourgue, a 22 year-old who is currently ranked No. 164 in the world, continued his hot streak into the third set and outplayed Murray, utilizing a variety of shots to get the job done.

The sense was present throughout the match that Murray would be able to battle back and find a way to pull out the win, like he has shown so many times before throughout his career. That was the case as Murray was able to begin controlling his shots more in the fourth set, limiting his unforced error count to just three in the set and finding a way to assert himself on the court.

The fifth set was more of the same as the much more experienced Murray continued his roll in the fifth set, attacking the youth and inexperience of Bourgue to earn two breaks and close out the match.

Murray highly praised the young Frenchman for his performance on Wednesday, but clearly stated his disappointment with his own level of play. “Today certainly wasn’t easy. I lost my way on the court today for quite a while…You can’t continue playing matches like that and then expect to win the tournament” said Murray.

The Brit will take on big serving Ivo Karlovic in the third round. Karlovic had a scare himself in the second round, as he was forced to play 22 games in the fifth set of his matchup with Australian Jordan Thompson, eventually pulling out the 6-7(2), 6-3, 7-6(3), 6-7(4), 12-10 win.

Another Frenchman in action on Wednesday was on the opposite end of the potential upset bid as Gilles Simon battled back from two sets to love down to beat Argentine Guido Pella, 4-6, 1-6, 7-5, 7-6(4), 6-4.

Pella, who is having a career year after having reached his career his career high ranking of No. 39 in March, raced out two a two sets lead and looked to be in complete control of the match. After going up a break in the third set and having a 3-1 lead, Pella was just three games away from his first third round appearance at a major, but the battle tested Simon needed to give his French faithful something to cheer for.

After going down 3-1, Simon won six of the next eight games, breaking Pella back to take the third set and keep the match alive.

Pella’s upset bid was far from over, though, as he broke in the first game of the fourth set and held a 4-2 lead before Simon was once again able to break late in the set to get back on serve, eventually forcing a tiebreak. The Argentine’s hopes looked to be crushed in that fourth set tiebreak as Simon raced out to a 5-0 lead and eventually won 7-4 to force a deciding fifth set.

The battle continued into the fifth set as each player was forced to battle in their service games, including at 2-2 where Simon had two break points and took advantage of the second one to begin his closing out of the match.

When the Frenchman served for it at 5-4, Pella showed just how much of a battler he is. A 22-point game ensued and Pella had a look at three break points, but Simon was too good and came up clutch as he saved all of them and finished off the comeback win to the delight of the Parisian crowd.

Simon’s epic win sets up a battle in the third round with Viktor Troicki.

Around The Corner: Life Continues on the ATP World Tour

After a hectic two weeks of Grand-Slam action from Melbourne, life returns to normal on the ATP World Tour. There are three 250-level tournaments this week and while the pace will be perhaps less enthralling than what we’ve just witnessed in Australia, here are some of the big names we can look forward to watching.

Open Sud de France

Formerly held in Lyon in October of each year, the Open Sud de France has now relocated to Montpelier at an earlier date within the tennis season.

Tomas Berdych is the number one seed and will try to win his first ATP title since his victory in Beijing this past October. That was the only title the Czech won in 2011, but he had an incredibly solid year reaching the semi-finals of eight tournaments and the quarter-finals of seven others. That type of consistency has made Berdych a main-stay in the top-ten in recent years but success at the Masters 1000 and Grand Slam level have still mostly eluded him with the exception of his win at the Paris Masters in 2005 and his Wimbledon final in 2010.

Berdych has a very manageable quarter of the tournament with no major obstacles in his way and a first-round bye to ease him into the draw.

Richard Gasquet is the fourth seed and is also in the top-half of the draw and he will likely face Nikolay Davydenko in the second round. Despite Davydenko’s rapid drop in play these past two years, the Russian will still give Gasquet a good challenge and provide fans with an entertaining early round match.

In the bottom half of the draw, look for two Frenchman to navigate their way through to the semi-finals. Both Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon are the highest two seeds and also the most likely to ride the support of the French fans to a solid showing.

Canadian number-two singles player Vasek Pospisil will undoubtedly be keeping his eye on the French, as Canada is scheduled to host the French in the first round of the Davis Cup on February 10th in Vancouver. Pospisil opens against French wildcard Guillaume Rufin.

PBZ Zagreb Indoors – Croatia

It was a moment for Croatian tennis fans to relish a year ago in Zagreb when Ivan Dodig captured his first ATP title against Michael Berrer. While the chances of Dodig repeating are not necessarily favored, he is one of three Croats who could lift the trophy on the final Sunday.

Veteran Ivan Ljubicic holds the top seed and opens against Karol Beck. Ljubicic has won the event before and has the best chance of emerging from his quarter of the draw.

Beneath him can be found monster-server Ivo Karlovic who will also receive plenty of home-country support. Mikhail Youzhny will try to bounce back from a disappointing first round loss in Melbourne as he holds the third seed and is my pick to emerge from the top-half of the draw.

In the bottom half, we have Marcos Baghdatis and the previously mentioned Dodig in one quarter. In the final section of the draw, Alex Bogomolov Jr. is the surprised second seed and leads the weakest section of the tournament. In other words, look for Baghdatis or possibly Dodig to have a good route to the finals.

VTR Open – Chile

Providing some contrast to the two hard-court tournaments this week, we have the VTR Open which is played on red clay. Last year’s champion in Vina del Mar is Tommy Robredo but he is not entered in this year’s edition. Meanwhile Fernando Gonzalez holds the most career titles at the event with four. Gonzalez has taken a wildcard into the main draw as he has struggled since returning to the tour last year from hip and knee injuries he sustained in 2010.

Clay court expert Juan Monaco takes the pole position this year and opens with a first round bye. Albert Montanes who is seeded fifth will likely be Monaco’s main source of opposition in the top-half of the draw.

In the bottom section look for Thomaz Bellucci, who won the event in 2010, to challenge once again for the title and for second seeded Juan Ignacio Chela to advance into the draw as well.

Don’t feel bad if you are feeling the effects of a tennis-hangover as these smaller events begin. Nothing can really compare to two weeks of elite level tennis like we have just experienced. There is a lot to look forward to however, with the first round of Davis Cup action just two weeks away and then a month after that we will enjoy back-to-back Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami.

Robbie Koenig: US Open Analysis

Together with Wimbledon, its my favorite Slam! I love “The City” from the restaurants to coffee shops, theatre, night life….there is no place like it!!! Apart from the fact it was my most successful Slam (1x Semi’s and 3x Quarterfinalist in doubles) and my favorite surface, I always felt at home in the Big Apple. The tournament paid a lot of bills for me! Also the wind can blow there…i probably was one of the few guys who liked that (conditions could be as windy as hell at my hometown in Durban, South Africa when i was growing up as a youngster) its a great equalizer, and tests your mental resilience, and its a factor, no question, together with the heat and the crowd, it makes for heady cocktail!

So who’s gonna handle the conditions best? That’s the million dollar question. Let’s stay away from Nadal, Federer and Djokovic for a while, because we know they are the favorites, any person can tell you that/ Lets take a look at their various sections in the draw and try pick out some “dark horses.”

Rafa, top of the pile, first time ever at a Slam, has got a tough Quarter!! Berdych ( who by the way I think is grossly under achieving!) can be a handful a for any of the top three, and he had a great record against Rafa, until recently, plays Karlovic potentially in the third round. Nadal will play either of the two I suspect. Those are two guys he won’t be happy to see in his section that’s for sure! Remember the courts play QUICK at Flushing Meadows and those two guys will love that!

Also you have Blake and Nalbandian in the Quarter, ANOTHER two players who have the measure of Rafa. Remember James’s most successful Slam is here, and he’ll be tough to beat under lights at home! As far as Nalbandian is concerned, who knows which guy is gonna turn up, he’s probably short of some matches.

[ad#adify-300×250]

In the next quarter you got the likes of Ferrer, Simon, Youhzny, Murray and the “on fire” Juan Martin Del Potro (he’s won four straight tournaments!) Murray was gonna be one of my picks to make the semis, but that’s a tough section. Del Potro vs. Canas is a very interesting first round matchup, never easy to play someone from your own country and someone you probably looked up to as a youngster. Del Potro will do well to get over this first hurdle! and keep that tsunami size wave of confidence on a roll! I think the fact Murray lost early in Beijing is actually beneficial, because he’ll have more time to recover and get acclimatized back in the US. It’s so tough to  play your very best when you are globetrotting like the tennis players have been doing this past month. Murray is my pick to come thru, but only just ahead of David Ferrer, who remember last year put Rafa out…..and they’re in the same half this year???

The Bottom half is definitely easier, I think. Unfortunately I don’t think Roddick is gonna make it as far as the Semis. Djokovic will see to that, if not Ernests Gulbis in the second round. That is my outside pick there! Gonzo is playing well, but that section will be all Djokovic

Then finally the fourth quarter – interesting. A few dangerous floaters – Almagro, Verdasco ( Fernando has had a great season so far!) and Andreev have all had a good year. What about the Haas vs. Gasquet 1st round!!! That’s rough for either player. But perhaps the most interesting matchup, could be the potential third round encounter between Stepanek and Federer. “Steps” beat him in Rome earlier this year and is a tricky customer even when Roger was playing well…..but considering how susceptible the Swiss Maestro is looking now, that match could be a massive headache for “Big Rog” And if Fed does get bounced early, which one of the above mentioned guys will capitalize…..Probably NONE….That’s because Davydenko is in that section. The guy who always finds his way into the last four, and the one player we always say very little about!!! But boy has he earned his stripes, remember the win in Miami this year, he drilled Rafa in the finals! Beware the Russian.

I can’t wait for Monday! To see the players go toe to toe at a Slam is the ultimate! (I’m not a big fan of tennis being an Olympic sport, so I wasn’t that in to it). I would love to see Murray win his first Slam, it would spice things up even more at the top of the rankings. Don’t forget he won the Junior title there back in 2004, so there’s that ‘feel good factor’ for him in NYC!!!

Enjoy the spectacle!