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Murray v Gulbis as it happened

Artois Championships

Third round result:

A MURRAY (GB) bt E GULBIS (Lat)

5-7 6-1 6-4

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By Tom Fordyce

THIRD SET

Murray 6-4 Gulbis
Easy hold - and he's home and hosed. Great steal from Murray - as soon as he stepped up the aggression, he started making yards. Gulbis looks slightly stunned.

"It was so slippy out there," Murray says afterwards. "My groin's OK but my neck's quite sore, and I can only bend my thumb one way."

How many ways could he bend his thumb before?

Murray 5-4 Gulbis
Gulbo slips at 15-30 and punts a forehand wide - two break points. Gulbs saves the first with a battering-ram first serve and looks to have saved the second when he slams a smash deep into Murray territory, only for Murray to block a desperate backhand back that Gulbo can only feather in the net. That's the break - Murray only has to hold now and he's into the quarters...

Murray 4-4 Gulbis
Who'll blink first? Murray holds again, and the tie-break hoves into view.

Murray 3-4 Gulbis
Not even a sniff of a break for Murray. He's relying on that backhand slice, but it just won't bite at the moment. Bright sunshine overhead now. Madness.

Murray 3-3 Gulbis
No dramas for Murray either - a hold to 15. Little noise in the crowd - it's hard to clap when you're holding a champagne flute and complimentary Artois goody-bag.

Murray 2-3 Gulbis
What a shot from Murray - a stunning backhand sizzle-pass on the run. It makes no difference, however, as Gulbis's serve stays stronger than Jon-Paul Sigmarsson.

Murray 2-2 Gulbis
Marginal at 30-15 as Murray over-hits a drop-shot and takes a gamble down the line from Gulbis's deep return. The ball looks like it's heading out but dips late to bite the line. Whoosh. Level pegs once again.

Murray 1-2 Gulbis
Tight as you'd expect, this third set. Murray can't get a foot-hold in the Gulbis serve and the Latvian edges ahead. At the change-over, Murray gets a shoulder massage from the trainer. Forming quite a bond, those two.

Murray 1-1 Gulbis
He's moving beautifully, in fact, chasing down a tape-hitter to flight away a half-volley lob. Gulbis can't connect with a big first serve and Murray's level. Iain Duncan-Smith in the crowd - I've done well to recognise him, surely. IDS is chuckling away while clutching his programme to his chest in rather defensive fashion.

Murray 0-1 Gulbis
Murray scampers for a Gulbis forehand and screams in pain as he slips. There's a shocked hush from the crowd, and Murray limps to his chair clutching his groin. The trainer comes on again. Worrying scenes.

The trainer is now rubbing cream into Murray's groin. Kim looks on with fawn-eyed concern, but I think he'll be okay here. Doesn't look like he's torn anything - maybe just a nasty tweak. He's smiling, although that might just be the trainer's magic.

Yup - he's back on court, and as Gulbis takes the point he needs for the game, Murray seems to be moving okay.

SECOND SET

Murray 6-1 Gulbis
As the wind gets up, Murray holds with easy relish. On the front row of the grandstand, Muzza's young ladyfriend Kim Sears puts the tips of delicate fingers together and claps bashfully as telephoto lenses zoom.

Murray 5-1 Gulbis
More pace and wallop again from Murray, and although Gulbo saves one break point as Muz goes wide, he flops a dreadful backhand into the tape to give away the double-break. Sky overhead now the colour of tarmac.

Murray 4-1 Gulbis
Murray tries another forehand dropper but gets it all wrong, the ball falling off his racquet like a dead leaf to expose him to two break points. His serve comes to his rescue in the nick of time and he holds to extend his lead. Those clouds overhead have all the dreadful menace of a Death Star.

Murray 3-1 Gulbis
Donovan puts palm to palm as Murray hits top gear for the first time, raking a forehand across Gulbo and then fooling in the sneakiest of unreturnable drop-shots. Just been reminded about an extraordinary rumour about Tim Henman. If it's true it puts the lad in a very different light indeed.

Murray 2-1 Gulbis
Bigger serving from Murray in these first two games, and the first signs that he's finding his range. Is that Jason Donovan over there? It is, you know. Never had him down as a tennis fan. I could see Minogue at Roland Garros, though, possibly in a head-scarf.

Murray 1-1 Gulbis
Tiddly sniff for Murray at 30-30, but Gulbis winds up his big forehand banger and clatters his way to the game. Michael Parkinson in the crowd there, wearing a bright pink tie and a pair of sunglasses of the sort you might pick up on a whim in an Esso garage for 4.99.

Murray 1-0 Gulbis
Tricky hold for Murray as Gulbis thrashes a wicked forehand service return back past his shoe-laces. More dark clouds gathering in the near-distance. Uh-oh.

FIRST SET

Murray 5-7 Gulbis
An over-the-top "Whoo-hoo!" is heard court-side as Gulbis nets a stretching volley to go 0-15 - perhaps Greg Rusedski is court-side again. Gulbo drop-volleys himself level and then tries another, only for Muz to spot it coming and flick a lovely passing-shot down the line. Murray slips again chasing a forlorn forehand and then balloons a backhand into the heavens to ship the game and set.

Gulbs deserved that one - the fresh-faced Latvian hero is utterly unintimidated by this atmosphere. Which probably isn't surprising, bearing in mind he's being watched by a mixture of middle-aged women from Guildford and a sleepy bunch of half-cut corporate guests.

Murray 5-6 Gulbis
He gets it, too, slipping badly as he chases a drop-shot and clattering a backhand on the full into Murray's legs to get a break point and taking the second with a woeful Muz double-fault. Murray looks like he's hurt his thumb, too - he landed strangely going on the slide cross-court, and as he slumps into his chair at the changeover he calls for the trainer. Gulbo, perhaps sniffing a little gamesmanship, puts a towel over his head and waits for his shot at serving for the set.

The doc is massaging Murray's right thumb with tiny, circular strokes - the sort of technique you might use on a mouse with a sore back. He'll live. At least the sun's shining.

Murray 5-5 Gulbis
Strange tactics from Muzza - he stands way behind the baseline and lets Gulbo dictate like an authoritarian boss. A lame forehand slice falls into the net and Gulbo goes level, sniffing a break.

Murray 5-4 Gulbis
Good sliced backhands from Murray force the error from Gulbo, who drives long with a yelp. Nothing close to a break yet - not even a break point.

Murray 4-4 Gulbis
Super pick-up from Gulbo as he holds to love, tipping a toe-smasher up and over the net from a near-impossible angle. There 's a sinister-looking man in dark glasses and a dark wind-cheater lurking under a black umbrella at the back of the court, looking like a two-dimensional villain in a Jeffrey Archer thriller.

Murray 4-3 Gulbis
Easy hold for Murray this time as his serve skids through like a Malcolm Marshall short 'un. The Scot trudges to his chair and nails a banana like a starving chimp.

Murray 3-3 Gulbis
Desultory applause as Ernests aces Murray to hold. In the crowd, four middle-aged women with identical Wade hair spread a large checked blanket across their knees.

Murray 3-2 Gulbis
Delightful slicey drop-shot from Murray to leave Ernests stranded - both of them. He then tries another on his backhand which gets called out, and after challenging the call he goes back to his chair and sits down with exaggerated confidence. As Gulbo watches on amused, Hawk-Eye shows the ball dropped out. Nervous laughter from the crowd, as if they're scared Murray might go loco - but instead he smiles like James Bond villain Jaws and serves out for the game.

1446: Heard a very amusing story from a pal last night about the time he went to the Artois Championships on a corporate jolly. It centered around the problems of 20 people all guzzling the sponsor's main product on a warm day, and the impact this had on their behaviour court-side a few hours later. I won't go into details, but suffice to say that Michael Stich deserves a written apology. And possibly a bunch of flowers.

1443: I knew it. The players are coming back out again, and crack on with some warming-up without futher ado.

Murray 2-2 Gulbis
Greasy surface now on the Queen's Club courts, and Gulbo pops over two more cheeky droppers to test Murray's grip. Murray makes the first only to put the ball out, and then misses the next before careering into the net. He makes his point to the umpire with pantomime grumpiness, and when Gulbis holds the umpire calls a halt. Not actually whacking it down by any means, but it's more slippery than an oily ice rink out there. Give it ten minutes and we could be ticking along again.

Murray 2-1 Gulbis
Oohs from the crowd as Murray skids in to chase a dropper from Ernests and turns his dodgy left ankle over nastily. Murray hobbles around histrionically before sealing the game with a beefy serve. Spots of rain in the air, and brollies sprout like hair from an old man's ears.

Murray 1-1 Gulbis
Slice and dice from Muzz to claw his way back to 30-30, but Gulbo moves him around court and then fools him with a forehand so cleverly disguised it virtually walks off court unrecognised.

Murray 1-0 Gulbis
Evil grey clouds lumbering into view overhead, and it's an easy hold for Murray as Gulbo wafts wide and long with his returns.

1401 BST: What ho - there's Greg Rusedski with a microphone in his hand, and he's buttonholed Andy M.

"I've got to play a solid match," mumbles Murray. "Gulbis hits the ball massive but he makes a lot of mistakes."

"Great," says Greg. "Go get 'em!"


see also
Wimbledon build-up photos
11 Jun 08 |  Tennis


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