- ATP Tour
Murray leaves it late for impressive comeback
Andy Murray completed an impressive - but energy-sapping - revival to defeat Gilles Simon and reach the quarter-finals of the Mutua Madrid Open in the early hours of Friday morning.
Having been thoroughly outclassed in the opening set of their clash, Murray dug deep to halt Simon's charge - eventually winning 2-6 6-4 7-6(6) in a duel that had many swings in momentum.
Neither player was perfect in the opening stanza - Simon making 12 unforced errors to Murray's 18 - but it was the Frenchman who certainly showed the greater hunger and ambition, and that was reflected in the scoreline.
Simon made a point of attacking Murray's second serves with a relentlessness that seemed to catch the Scot off-guard, and it soon reaped rewards - as he picked up two quick breaks to move towards clinching the first set.
At 5-2 down Murray attempted to fight back - moving ominously into position at 15-30 - but a wayward forehand into the open court seemed to seal his fate, with Simon duly rallying back to pass his rival and clinch the opening set.
Given a few minutes to reflect on matters at his chair, Murray did not immediately hit upon an improved formula for success - with Simon immediately creating a break point in the first service game of the second set. The first chance would pass him by (a forehand looping long after a draining rally) but the second would be snapped up - with a few booming forehands paving the way for him to smash back a lob that clipped the sideline.
To all intents and purposes it appeared Murray was doomed - especially as he started to dispute obvious line calls as Simon duly moved 2-0 up. Murray then dropped 0-30 down again on his own service, raising fears of an early end to a contest. But the man is not a major champion for nothing, as he successfully roared back to save his serve with some blistering groundstrokes.
Suddenly, a comeback appeared to be a possibility. Simon tried to maintain his high level but Murray was swinging more freely - creating multiple break opportunities that Simon found himself stretching to the limit to fend off. He could not last forever, alas, as Murray eventually broke through the resistance at the seventh time of asking to restore parity at 2-2.
Just like that, service holds were becoming easier - Murray racing to 3-2 in no time at all. The match went with serve to 4-4 before Murray faltered once again, two unforced errors dropping him into a 0-30 hole.
But some absolutely sparkling tennis - including two sublime forehands - saw him escape with the game, heaping the pressure on his opponent. And it was pressure that would prove too much to bear, Murray turning the screw to take a second set and move the contest into a deciding third.
It looked like Murray was going to romp to victory in that conclusion, as he quickly engineered a 3-0 advantage, but Simon recovered to eventually level matters at 4-4, heightening the pressure of the occasion.
At 5-4 to Murray, the Scot had an opening at 15-30 - but the Frenchman again rose to the occasion, forcing two errors before taking the game after Murray buried a slice into the net. Simon was leading a charmed life, however, and on his next service game the luck nearly ran out - Murray squandering three match points to slip into a tie-break, as Simon visibly tired.
That tiredness would cost him at the death, however, as Murray came on strong and flummoxed his opponent with a series of inventive shots to finally, eventually claim the win.
Murray will now face sixth seed Tomas Berdych in the quarter-finals, after he overcame a spirited Kevin Anderson 7-6(5) 7-5 in their third round match.