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Andy Murray beats Gasquet in five sets at French Open

French Open
Venue: Roland Garros, Paris Date: 23 May-6 June
Coverage:
Live video streamed from 1000 BST on BBC Sport website (UK only) and BBC red button; commentary on BBC 5 live sports extra; also live on Eurosport; text commentary on BBC Sport website Details of BBC coverage

Andy Murray

Highlights - Gritty Murray sees off Gasquet (UK users only)

By Piers Newbery
BBC Sport at Roland Garros

British number one Andy Murray battled back from two sets down to beat Richard Gasquet in the first round of the French Open.

Gasquet proved every bit as tough an opening opponent as predicted but as the Frenchman tired, the Scot got stronger, sealing a 4-6 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-2 6-1 victory in four hours and four minutes.

Murray, hampered a little by his troublesome knee, must now recover sufficiently to take on old foe Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina in the second round, but the manner of his win on Court Suzanne Lenglen should aid the recovery process.

"My knee's sore and a four-hour match probably wasn't the best thing for it when it's been sore the last few days," said Murray. "You just need to try and manage these problems the best you can.

"It hurts at different parts of the year, you know. I can't do anything about it. It's just something I was born with, and just going to have to deal with for my whole career. It's a lot worse than people think."

Jonathan Overend's blog

The last time Murray and Gasquet met, at Wimbledon two years ago, Murray recovered a two-set deficit with the backing of a vocal Centre Court crowd.

Gasquet had home advantage this time and the spectators on a sunbathed Lenglen court were in holiday mood, and quick to get up chants of "Richard, Richard" when their man obliged with a flurry of winners off his brilliant backhand.

The Frenchman had arrived in Paris on the back of a 10-match unbeaten run on clay and he picked up where he had left off when beating world number nine Fernando Verdasco in Nice on Saturday.

Three break points went begging as early as game four, one wasted with a poor drop shot, but when Gasquet fended off a break point himself with an ace in game seven and followed up with a gorgeous backhand down the line it was clear he was the man in charge.

Murray pleased with battling victory

Murray cut a frustrated figure for much of the opening set and a poor volley and a double-fault saw him facing set point in game 10 - at which point he chose to serve-volley for the first time in the match, the volley ending up in the net.

Gasquet had the first opportunity in the second set but played a bizarre forehand slice that floated long at break point in game four, while Murray could only watch as yet another blistering backhand flew past him when the Scot had his chance in the following game.

Murray's frustration with himself deepened considerably when he double-faulted to hand Gasquet break point in game five but he got out of trouble with a succession of rasping forehands.

Gasquet retained the initiative, however, and came desperately close to a two-set lead when a running forehand pass went just long on set point at 6-5, but after twice letting two-point leads slip in the ensuing tie-break he wrapped it up with a cross-court forehand and a sharp half-volley.

Richard Gasquet
Gasquet was playing just two days after winning the Nice Open

Victory was now in sight for the world number 45, but things are rarely straightforward for the man who has never made it past the third round in Paris, and pre-match concerns about his ability to last the pace in a best-of-five-set match came to the fore in a scrappy third set.

After securing a potentially decisive break to lead by two sets and 3-2 he played a woeful game, quickly slipping 0-40 down before a desperately wild forehand brought Murray back on level terms.

Gasquet later admitted that from that moment he felt "no energy" and the tiring Frenchman then double-faulted at break point in game eight, before an immediate break back that would prove his last moment of real defiance in the match.

An errant smash handed Murray set point in game 10 and the Briton took his chance to get a foothold in the match for the first time, after two minutes shy of three hours on court.

Gasquet required treatment at both the start and end of a fourth set that would not be such a battle - Murray rattling through it in half an hour with two breaks as the Gasquet backhands began to miss their target, while the physically stronger Briton started to dictate matters from inside the baseline.

There was to be one final glimmer of hope for the local favourite when he earned a break point early in the final set, but Murray slammed the door shut with a heavy serve and then broke for 3-1, thanks in part to a drop shot that verged on the cruel against an opponent struggling to move.

I was really, really tired. It's hard in a Grand Slam, especially against Murray. You know he's always fighting, putting all the balls in the court, running well

Richard Gasquet

Gasquet's earlier backhand winners were a distant memory now and when he dumped his favourite shot into the middle of the net to hand over the double-break, the game was up.

Murray served out to love, sealing the win with an ace before batting away a few balls into a crowd that was almost as exhausted as the two players.

"Maybe I put a little bit too much emphasis on winning that first set but he was playing some great tennis, hitting huge balls and taking loads of chances," said Murray.

"I just managed to come back in the end by fighting hard and believing.

"You need to try and stay focused on your own game and against someone like him it's tough. I looked up at one point and he'd hit 59 winners and 30 unforced errors.

"It's difficult but you just need to chase everything down and believe in yourself."

606: DEBATE
Ryushinku

Gasquet was suspended last May at the Sony Ericsson Open in Florida after testing positive for cocaine, but was later cleared of any wrongdoing after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled that he had been inadvertently contaminated by kissing a woman in a nightclub.

"I'm proud. I made it back one year down the road, and I'm at a good level," said Gasquet. "But I need to continue playing more matches. That's the only way you can get your tennis back.

"I was really, really tired. It's hard in a Grand Slam, especially against Murray. You know he's always fighting, fighting, putting all the balls in the court, running well.

"I was close but it was really hard for me to finish the match. In Grand Slams you have to be 100% to win, especially against Andy."

And he refused to criticise the schedulers for turning down his request to play on Tuesday, sticking instead to their planned divide between the top and bottom halves of the draw.

Asked if the extra day's rest would have helped, he said: "Yes, I think it could give me a better chance, but I knew before the tournament so you have to be a little bit lucky - I had bad luck."



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see also
French Open day two as it happened
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French Open photos
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Baltacha makes early French exit
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Grand slam men's singles latest
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Grand slam women's singles latest
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Order of play
23 May 09 |  Tennis


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