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Page last updated at 18:40 GMT, Thursday, 12 November 2009

Murray v Stepanek as it happened



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By Caroline Cheese

1840: Like I say, a very odd match. Murray seemed to give up the ghost once he went a break down in the second - having completely dominated the first set. The world number four can now get some rest. The next time we see him, he'll be walking out in front of his home crowd at the O2 Arena in the World Tour Finals.

Murray 6-1 3-6 4-6 Stepanek
Different story this time as Stepanek rediscovers his first serve to race into a 40-0 lead and earn three match points. Murray saves one with a brutal forehand, but another big serve from the Czech seals the win. Odd, odd match.

Rafael & Fabio... on 606: "Steps' dropshots today have been ridiculously ridiculous, step aside Federer..."

Murray 6-1 3-6 4-5* Stepanek
Well, well. Murray seems to have found a drop of adrenalin from somewhere. Maybe pride has kicked in. Stepanek pegs him back to 40-30 with yet another stunning drop shot, but the Czech nets a backhand and it's squeaky bum time for Steps now.

Murray *6-1 3-6 3-5 Stepanek
The crowd, desperate for a bit more tennis, get behind Murray as Stepanek overcooks a forehand on the first point, and then slices a backhand long to go 30-15 down. Murray gets a break-back point when he pounces on a weak second serve and takes it with another sizzling return.

Murray 6-1 3-6 2-5* Stepanek
Murray goes for a do-or-die forehand down the line - and misses by a couple of inches. Break point and then a desperate double fault. Surely there's no coming back from this?

Murray *6-1 3-6 2-4 Stepanek
Murray stands idly twirling his racquet as he waits to receive serve. Not the actions of a man pumped up to get back into this match. Stepanek comes through for the loss of one point.

Murray 6-1 3-6 2-3* Stepanek
An ace seals a very welcome love service game for Murray. I have the impression Stepanek has decided one break is enough... and with Murray in this slumbering state, he may well be right.

Murray *6-1 3-6 1-3 Stepanek
Hello... Two double faults in a row? That gives Murray some hope at 15-30 - quickly snuffed out as Stepanek closes in on the net and puts away a perfect volley.

Murray 6-1 3-6 1-2* Stepanek
Murray digs out a few big serves to stay in touch. He still looks cream-crackered though.

Murray *6-1 3-6 0-2 Stepanek
That first set seems like a different match now. Stepanek cruises through that game. He has undoubtedly improved, but Murray's form has completely deserted him. Just for the record, Murray has played six matches in about 10 days following an injury lay-off, including last night's three-set win which finished at 1.45am local time. He has already won six titles this year and wants to be in peak condition for the London Tour Finals. If I were him, I would be less than 100% fired up for this one - but then I'm not a world-class athlete and never will be (unless the archery comes good in time for 2012).

Murray 6-1 3-6 0-1* Stepanek
Stepanek has clearly sensed the signs of fatigue from the other side of the court - and he's not afraid to take advantage. Three drop shots in a row - the last of which Murray doesn't even bother to run for - give the Czech two break points. Murray saves both - but Steps forces a third with a backhand winner after another draining rally. This time, Murray goes inches wide with a pass.

Murray *6-1 3-6 Stepanek
Game starts with a tense baseline rally - won by Murray when his forehand clips the net and Steps goes wide. The Czech wallops a backhand over the baseline to make it 30-30, but he carves a volley into the open space to give himself a second set point. Big serve forces the decider. Has Murray got the energy or inclination to come through this?

Murray 6-1 3-5* Stepanek
Fatigue really starting to show now as Murray is late onto a forehand and sees it ricochet into the crowd. He is really dragging his feet in between points. At deuce, he puts a lame forehand into the net to give Stepanek a set point - but Murray hammers down a big serve and then anticipates a pass to put the volley away. He stays alive.

Murray *6-1 2-5 Stepanek
Murray whips a decent forehand crosscourt - but Stepanek dives to his right and somehow replies with a drop volley. The first mutterings of discontent from Murray as he slaps a return into the net, and Steps takes the game to 15.

Murray 6-1 2-4* Stepanek
Poor game by Stepanek, the first in a while. Succession of errors hands Murray the game to love.

Murray *6-1 1-4 Stepanek
Nothing for Murray to grab hold of there. Is he going to lose his first ever set against the Czech? The Scot beat Stepanek, seeded 14th, at his first Wimbledon in 2005 - and later accused his opponent of trying to put him off. Classic Stapanek.

Murray 6-1 1-3* Stepanek
Murray on the board and showing signs of coming back to life. Stepanek is one of the more dogged competitors on the tour so there was never any hope of him throwing in the towel.

Murray *6-1 0-3 Stepanek
The momentum has shifted dramatically - and Murray looks none too pleased. A hold to 15 for the underdog. If you're not up to speed with today's events in Paris, here's a summary: Davydenko lost to Soderling but qualified for London anyway; Soderling, who next faces Djokovic, can also still qualify; Verdasco lost to Cilic and must hope Soderling or Gonzalez don't reach the final and Tsonga doesn't win it; Tsonga beat Simon easily; Monfils beat Fed-conqueror Benneteau easily.

Murray 6-1 0-2* Stepanek
Here's a sniff for Stepanek, a sweeping crosscourt backhand earning him deuce. Murray bangs a big serve down the 'T', but then a double fault and a backhand into the net gives the Czech a break point. A lovely drop shot has Murray scampering and Steps puts away the winner to break for the first time.

Murray *6-1 0-1 Stepanek
Stepanek finds a groove on his serve to open the second set in style. He is yet to get even a sniff of a break point though.

Murray 6-1* Stepanek
Twenty minutes gone and the first set's in the bag for Murray. He seals it by sprinting for a drop volley and dinking it back at an impossible angle - the ball brushing the top of the net for good measure.

Murray *5-1 Stepanek
The crowd - such as it is - give Steps some encouragement as he stretches to half-volley a Murray pass which clips the net. Brilliant reactions - and he's on the board.

Murray 5-0* Stepanek
Murray races into a 40-0 lead and though Steps gets back to 40-30, a big serve seals the deal for the Brit. By the way, if you want to get involved, the usual avenues are open to you: 81111, 606 or Twitter. Be quick though, I might not be here for long.

From Biscuits on 606 "This one needs to be a quick, clean, aggressive execution, with lots of easily won service games and every break point chance taken. So we basically need to change everything about Andy's current game :)"

Murray *4-0 Stepanek
Murray opens up with a sumptuous lob on the run, and follows it with an angled forehand. Steps then almost takes Murray's head off as he chases down a forehand and fires it straight at his opponent, but Murray ducks and the ball is out. He breaks to love.

Murray 3-0* Stepanek
Easy hold for Murray and this is all going swimmingly, as the Scot no doubt wouldn't say.

Murray *2-0 Stepanek
Stepanek is trying to out-Murray Murray with some slicing and dicing - which is a fairly rubbish idea. He sprays a forehand into the trams and Murray's a break up already.

Murray 1-0* Stepanek
Murray has a 3-0 record against Steps, and in fact has never dropped a set against him. However, the Scot showed signs of fatigue in his scratchy win over James Blake yesterday and appeared to be troubled by a hip injury of some sort, so we shall see. He's off to a decent start anyway, holding to 30.
* denotes next to serve

1659: Murray has been shoved out on to Court One today to face Czech lothario Radek Stepanek, the former beau of Martina Hingis and Nicole Vaidisova. They're just about finishing their knock-up now - and Murray will serve first.

1655: Hello there. A mere 16 hours after squeaking past James Blake, brave Andy Murray returns to court in Paris with a place in the quarter-finals up for grabs.

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see also
Stepanek knocks out tired Murray
12 Nov 09 |  Tennis
Davydenko books World Finals spot
12 Nov 09 |  Tennis
Murray survives late-night battle
12 Nov 09 |  Tennis
Benneteau stuns Federer in Paris
11 Nov 09 |  Tennis
Davydenko closes on London place
10 Nov 09 |  Tennis
Safin starts final event with win
09 Nov 09 |  Tennis
Agassi predicts slams for Murray
09 Nov 09 |  Tennis
Murray takes Valencia Open title
08 Nov 09 |  Tennis

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