Andy Murray is through to the fourth round
It took an old foe to do it, but Juan Martin Del Potro finally dragged Andy Murray back to close to his best as he booked a place in the fourth round here at Roland Garros.
There were still a few rough edges to the world no. 1’s performance, but with barely a word to his box he quietly set about negotiating his way past the formidable Argentine.
The 7-6, 7-5, 6-0 victory took 2 hr 53 minutes, and the comfort of the finish was reward for the way Murray fought so tenaciously for the initial momentum.
With so much recent history between these two – the Olympic final, the Davis Cup semi-final – the Philippe Chatrier crowd expected an epic, but perhaps not quite so much of the drama squeezed into an opening set which was so tight it had to be decided by a judges’ decision.
Murray was again his mix of divine drop shots and uncharacteristic errors, never more so than with the lob he attempted to save an early break point which was mishit so badly it bounced his side of the net.
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Garbine Muguruza playing at the French Open
Del Potro had chances to break Murray again to clinch the set but Murray forced him to serve for it, a responsibility that proved too much for the Argentinian.
Having saved three match points he double-faulted to give Murray a fourth – a gift the Scot duly accepted to take the set towards a tie-break.
After double-faulting initially, Murray began to use a serve-and-volley strategy to good effect but wasted two set points.
He thought he had converted a third, but Del Potro’s superb reflex winner had the crowd on its feet, only for them to slump back in their seats when he promptly double-faulted.
Del Potro thought he had saved yet another set point with a fierce shot down the line. But a late call from the line judge had the umpire down from his chair to check the mark, and only once the two of them had conferred over the clay, could Murray claim the spoils.
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The relief seemed to lift him and he broke Del Potro in the opening game of the second and had two further chances to break again in the third.
Both players were producing some extraordinary shots, Murray slightly more consistently, even forcing Del Potro to his knees at one point when he slipped in the eighth game.
The crowd did all they could to lift him up again, with cries of “DelPo” sweeping the arena between ends and then points.
Inspired by that, the no. 29 seed threatened Murray with two break points and clinched a third after Murray carelessly double-faulted.
Juan Martin del Potro looked exhausted at the end of the first set
They do like drama, though, these two and Murray promptly broke straight back to earn another chance to serve for the set. This time he was relentless, a final 200 km/h ace doing the damage.
A change of shirt, but no change of attitude for Murray, who was as focused as he has been for several weeks.
For the second time he started the new set with a break and this time, instead of fluffing his lines, he started to hit them. Consistently. He broke Del Potro again to love on his way to a 4-0 lead, then did it again with some of the most sublime tennis he has played for a long time.
Murray finally closed proceedings with another pinpoint winner which smacked the baseline. But in doing so opened the way to a more positive-looking second week of the Championship.