- French Open, Day Three
Murray heeds wake-up call in victory over Ito
Andy Murray was given a much-needed wake-up call by Tatsuma Ito after complacency from the Brit threatened to cause a major predicament in the first round of the French Open on Tuesday.
Murray enters the 2012 iteration of Roland Garros aiming to improve on last year's performance, when he reached the semi-finals before losing to eventual champion Rafael Nadal. But he will need to show a much higher level of discipline, consistency and cutting edge than he did in his opening 6-1 7-5 6-0 victory.
The British No. 1 was lulled into a lackadaisical daze by Ito, who started the match in woeful fashion. And, rather than turning the screw on his less-illustrious opponent, Murray became stuck in first gear, which caused him more than the odd worry as Ito moved through his own in the second.
Murray has proven himself to be one of the finest shot-makers on the ATP Tour, but he did not need to delve anywhere close to the top shelf of his arsenal in set one as Ito simply tied himself in knots. Unforced errors flew off the Japanese player's racket, perhaps justified by the nerves that accompany a French Open debut.
The first set was over in 25 minutes, with Ito winning 12 points. Unforced errors handed Murray each of his two breaks, with Ito sending a forehand long and then a backhand wide as the Brit moved to 4-0.
Even when Ito finally hinted at his true standard by stringing together an excellent point in game six, the world No. 68 ruined it by sending the easiest of smashes into the net. Murray's only concern was on set point, twice failing to close it out on serve before eventually succeeding when another Ito groundstroke missed its target.
Murray's last clay-court appearance saw him edged out by Richard Gasquet in Rome, having won the opening set against the Frenchman. So it was important he kept focus in the second set against Ito, but the opposite happened as Ito became the authoritative force.
Murray broke in the opening game of the second but was quickly pegged back, Ito starting to find lines with his forehand particularly impressive. A wonderful slice winner from Murray saved more trouble in game six as he averted danger at 30-30 on serve.
The Scot's next service game proved even more turbulent, with Ito storming to a 0-40 advantage. It was at that point Murray appeared to realise he was in a competitive match, and he showed great resolve to hold for 4-4.
In a set that had seen Ito hit almost double the number of winners produced by Murray, the world No. 4 still managed to steal ahead at the crucial moment, breaking for 6-5 - much to the disappointment of the underdog-favouring crowd. A topspin forehand cross-court winner then set up three set points for Murray, who accepted the first to put his wobble behind him.
The British No. 1 had been advised by Boris Becker to pull out of the year's second grand slam due to ongoing back problems. It was a suggestion that angered Murray, but he will nevertheless be determined to chalk up as many straight-sets victories as possible to alleviate strain on his body.
Indeed there were few signs of that back issue heading into the third set as Murray produced some fine defence to tame the explosive groundstrokes of Ito, who was broken once again in the first game. By now Murray had firmly asserted his control, breaking again for 3-0 and 5-0, and he closed out the match with a comfortable service hold.
Murray will now face Jarkko Nieminen in the second round, after the Finn was handed a first round victory over Igor Andreev, who retired through injury. Nieminen was 2-1 up in the third set when Andreev retired, with no reason provided. Nieminen lost the opening set 6-3, but bounced back to take the second 6-2 before fate intervened.