- French Open
Murray's heroics could hinder Wimbledon hopesJo Carter May 31, 2012
Andy Murray's victory over Jarkko Nieminen ensured another €20,000 in prize money as he secured his place in the third round at Roland Garros - but at what cost?
Lying prone on the ground, trailing 0-4 having dropped his opening two service games, his face contorted in pain as the physio poked and prodded his back, it seemed a case of if, rather than when he would throw in the towel.
Having pulled out of the Madrid Open earlier this month with a back problem, it looked like Murray had failed to shake off the issue - a real concern ahead of a busy summer of tennis. Even his coaching team were urging him to retire - with Wimbledon and the Olympics on the horizon, nobody would have blamed him.
"I had a bit of spasm, it hurt when I got up this morning and it was really bad 20 minutes after practice. I couldn't put any weight on my left leg," Murray revealed after the match.
But as he toyed with the thought of offering his hand to Nieminen, he sensed a glimmer of weakness in his opponent, and defied the wishes of his team to play on.
"They were telling me to stop at the end of first set, but i could see he was getting nervous," he said in his post-match interview. "I just decided to play on. I felt a bit bitter, probably end of the second set. I thought; let's give it a go, chasing a few balls down. It's still fairly sore."
"It looked really bad," Nieminen observed. "It's not often that somebody looks that bad and can keep going."
Only Murray knows just how much pain he was in - but the prospect of victory certainly helped ease any soreness.
Boris Becker had urged Murray to swerve the French Open if he had any doubt over his fitness and instead head back to London to prepare thoroughly for the grass-court season - the defence of his Queen's title ahead of Wimbledon.
Becker said: "I'm not a doctor, but if he's not fit, the question must be 'Why play at all?' Nobody can win seven matches over the next fortnight without being in decent physical condition, not even Rafael Nadal.
"So if he has no realistic chance of winning a grand slam title in Paris, why not get some rest? Have a physical break ahead of the grass-court season. With Wimbledon and the Olympics coming up, that is two big reasons for Andy to think about his long-term health."
Murray was quick to state that the pain he experienced on court against Nieminen was not the same problem that prevented him from travelling to Madrid.
"It's a completely different thing to what I had beforehand," Murray said of his back. "If it was the same thing, then, yeah, I would be really, really concerned about Wimbledon and obviously the Olympics."
It remains to be seen how Murray will be feeling when he wakes up on Friday morning, or more crucially what shape he will be in on Saturday for his third-round match with Santiago Giraldo, but Murray's competitive streak may have done him more harm than good.
He may have won over fans with his 'Braveheart' performance, but if he has done more long-term damage to what should have been just a wee niggle - and it consequently scuppers his chances at Wimbledon, British tennis fans may never forgive him.
Murray's winning instinct saw him over the line against Nieminen, but such short sightedness could prove costly.