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Murray battles curfew to belatedly beat Baghdatis

ESPN staff
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Andy Murray defeated Marcos Baghdatis shortly after 11pm on Saturday night to book his place in the fourth round at Wimbledon.

In a dramatic contest under the roof on Centre Court that saw the Scot rushing to complete the contest before a local council-imposed 11pm curfew, Murray sped through a final service game at 11.04pm to confirm a memorable 7-5 3-6 7-5 6-1 triumph.

Baghdatis, who beat Murray in their only previous meeting on grass at the same venue in 2006, seemed to control the contest for much of the early stages - but then fell apart after his Scottish opponent stole the third set at the death and was brushed away with little resistance as the tension rose in a whistle-stop fourth stanza.

There had been an inkling that there was late drama in store long before either player emerged to warm-up, as the two matches on Centre Court before their encounter - Serena Williams' victory over Jie Zheng, and Andy Roddick's defeat to David Ferrer - had gone to three and four hard-fought sets respectively, pushing back the start of Murray's match.

A 45-minute delay to close the roof at the conclusion of the second set, shortly after nine local time, did not help matters and, with Rafael Nadal's late finish on Thursday already making most fans aware of the unusual 11pm curfew, it quickly became obvious that both players were highly likely to be forced to return on Monday to conclude their contest.

Fortunately for Murray, however, the fourth set was not as close as the three that had proceeded it. The Scot was made to realise he was in a real battle from the start, as Baghdatis moved him around the court with some ease and put real pressure on his serve.

The Cypriot could not take the two chances he created, however, a wastefulness that Murray mercilessly exploited to clinch the set with a late break.

The second set, however, saw a complete role reversal - as Murray managed to take only one of the 10 break points he faced, while Baghdatis took two of his three openings to level proceedings, and bring about the shutting of the roof.

The players were forced to leave the court for 40 minutes in order to allow time for the roof to shut completely and the atmosphere inside the arena to be regulated but - despite Murray later claiming the conditions improved his performance - the contest remained evenly-matched.

Baghdatis drew first blood with a break but Murray - who was having trouble with balls falling from his short pockets, costing him forfeited points - snapped back with three games in row to restore parity.

The impasse eventually left Baghdatis serving to stay in the set but, after two remarkable smash-and-grab points that concluded with a pinpoint passing shot, Murray came up with another break when a tiebreak appeared to be assured to stunningly put himself in the driving seat.

By now the time had ticked beyond half 10, leaving less than 25 minutes to finish the contest. It seemed certain that organisers would be forced to call the players off until Monday, but Baghdatis' spirit seemed to have been broken by the finish to the previous set, as his groundstrokes suddenly failed to find their spot.

Murray, on the other hand, was buoyant - and raced around the court between games to get the contest finished - breaking Baghdatis for a second time at 10.59 and then getting the job done at the first time of asking as his rival fired long with organisers anxiously studying their watches.

Murray will now face Marin Cilic, who came through an even more exhausting contest against American Sam Querrey that finished only a few hours earlier in the day.

After winning the first two sets, Cilic appeared to be cruising to victory but Querrey - who had been guilty of wasting numerous break opportunities early on - suddenly turned it on to force a fifth-set decider.

That turned into an intensely competitive affair and, while the match did not quite reach the heights of John Isner and Nicolas Mahut's marathon contest two years ago, it still continued for over five and half hours - as Cilic eventually triumphed 7-6(6) 6-3 6-7(2) 6-7(3) 17-15.

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