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

Stepanek knocks out tired Murray

Murray targets London after Paris exit

A sluggish Andy Murray was knocked out of the Paris Masters third round after losing to Radek Stepanek 6-1 3-6 4-6.

Despite his late-night efforts 16 hours before against James Blake, Murray took just 20 minutes to take the first set against the tentative 13th seed.

But Stepanek hit back to level the match and took advantage of the tiring Scot to secure a hard-earned victory.

Stepanek faces the winner of Fernando Gonzalez and US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, who play later on.

With Murray's laboured win over Blake finishing in the early hours of Thursday, the world number four admitted he was beaten by the better man on the day.

"I said last night it was going to be difficult to come back and feel 100%. It's obviously limited recovery after a long match," the 22-year-old said.

It's not always about winning, especially when you're coming back from injury

Andy Murray

"But you still come out and you try to give it your best shot. It wasn't good enough."

However, the Scot looked far from jaded in the opening exchanges of this third-round clash and showed no sign of the hip problems he seemed to be suffering against Blake.

Stepanek had never taken a set off Murray over three winless encounters before this clash and he started like a man determined not to break the poor run, unable to respond to his opponent's lively movement from the back and dominant serve.

The Czech continued to make too many errors and the first set was over quickly, rounded off beautifully with a Murray cross-court chip over the net.

How quickly the match soon turned around.

Perhaps Murray had started to think too early about his evening off in Paris, or his aching limbs were tightening up, but Stepanek came out firing on all cylinders in the second set and raced to a 4-1 lead.

As in his second-round clash with Blake, Murray was guilty of taking his foot off the gas after a bright start and with a little more trickery, aided by an often-used drop-shot weapon, Stepanek eased to take the second set.


Murray's legs will not have been thanking him, but a deciding set was nothing short of deserved for his re-energised opponent.

As the Briton's serve weakened, Stepanek piled on the pressure and broke immediately at the start of the deciding set after winning a mammoth rally at deuce and his domination did not let up.

Murray had a glimmer of hope with a break to make it 5-3 and then won his serve to get within one, but Stepanek made no mistake to serve out for an impressive victory.

The final event for Murray this year will be the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals at London's O2 Arena, starting on 22 November.

And having only returned to action in Valencia last week after six weeks out with a wrist injury, the Scot is happy with his preparation for London.

"It's obviously a long, long season," Murray told BBC Radio 5 live.

"The last couple of weeks were important but it's not always about results, it's not always about winning, especially when you're coming back from injury.

"You want to get match fit and make sure your injury has cleared up, which it has.

"I won the tournament last week and played a couple of matches here too, so the preparation for London has been perfect, it's been exactly what I needed, and I'm not going to dwell on the loss of that match."

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see also
Murray v Stepanek as it happened
12 Nov 09 |  Tennis
Davydenko books World Finals spot
12 Nov 09 |  Tennis
Murray survives late-night battle
12 Nov 09 |  Tennis
Murray happy with hard-fought win
12 Nov 09 |  Tennis
Murray v Blake as it happened
11 Nov 09 |  Tennis
Benneteau stuns Federer in Paris
11 Nov 09 |  Tennis
Murray takes Valencia Open title
08 Nov 09 |  Tennis

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