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Andy Murray admits to tough days ahead of clash with Karlovic at French Open

By Paul Newman

Published 27/05/2016

Tense battles: Andy Murray has been victorious in two five-set matches to reach the third round at the French Open in Paris
Tense battles: Andy Murray has been victorious in two five-set matches to reach the third round at the French Open in Paris

Say what you like about Andy Murray but you can never take your eyes off the man. The 29-year-old Scot played one of the most topsy-turvy contests of his career when he recovered from a mid-match slump to beat Mathias Bourgue 6-2, 2-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 here in the second round of the French Open.

 The win came just 24 hours after Murray had come back from two sets down to beat Radek Stepanek in the first round.

Bourgue, a 22-year-old Frenchman playing in his first Grand Slam tournament, was an unlikely central character in this piece of high drama. The world No 164, who had never previously faced a top 50 opponent, played the match of his life, winning eight games in a row as he took the second and third sets with some thrilling tennis, though he also capitalised on some listless play by Murray.

"I lost my way on the court for quite a while," Murray admitted afterwards.

"I think I showed a lot of heart the last few days in tough, tough matches and in a tough atmosphere. Maybe I wasn't feeling or playing my best, but I found a way to win."

If Murray goes on to win the title he would be the first to do so after playing five-set matches in the first two rounds since Gaston Gaudio in 2004.

Having played for three days in a row - his victory over Stepanek was spread over Monday and Tuesday because of the weather - he at least had a day of rest before today's third-round meeting with Ivo Karlovic.

"It's been a tough few days," Murray said.

"If I'm to go far in this tournament I can't play too many matches like this."

There has been much talk in recent days about Murray's on-court behaviour and in particular his shouting and ranting in the general direction of his entourage. For the best part of two sets Murray was all but silent, which seemed to prove the point he had made that he plays his best tennis when he is expressing his emotions on court.

Asked later if he thought his subdued body language might have something to do with his first-round efforts, Murray said: "It was a pretty stressful couple of days. Coming back the next day and playing is not easy and the fifth set I played against Radek was tense.

"But I didn't start Wednesday's match that way.

Normally you would think that you would start the match off a little bit flatter. But there was a period there where I was a little bit flat. I don't know if that's because I was missing balls. I couldn't get myself into any rallies, and there wasn't really much to get fired up about, but a lot of that is down to the way that he played."

Following his victory over Stepanek, Murray will face another 37-year-old in the third round.

Stepanek was the oldest man to play in the singles at a Grand Slam tournament for 24 years, while Karlovic is the oldest man to reach the third round of a Grand Slam event for 25 years.

American legend Jimmy Connors played at the 1992 US Open at the age of 39 and also reached the third round at the French and US Opens the previous year at 38.

Karlovic came through a five-set marathon to earn his meeting with Murray.

The 6ft 11in Croatian, who has one of the biggest serves in the game, hit 41 aces in beating Australia's Jordan Thompson 6-7, 6-3, 7-6, 6-7, 12-10 after more than four and a half hours on court.

Belfast Telegraph

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