Andy Murray keeps his calm in Monte Carlo
On a day when a frustrated opponent took a swipe at Rafael Nadal's lovingly positioned waterbottles and Ernests Gulbis had a game deducted after a series of misdemeanours, Andy Murray was a model of cool-headed calm on his first outing of the clay-court season.
The 25-year-old Scot needed just 72 minutes to beat France's Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-1, 6-4 at the Monte Carlo Masters and earn a third-round meeting with Stanislas Wawrinka.
Perhaps the unbroken sunshine on the fourth glorious day in succession contributed to the behaviour of both Gulbis, who in losing to Juan Monaco smashed his racket on a net post and kicked a ball into the crowd, and Marinko Matosevic, who showed his annoyance while losing in straight sets to Nadal.
Murray, in contrast, never looked in danger of losing his focus against 29-year-old Roger-Vasselin, a late developer who reached his first tour final earlier this year and was playing in the main draw here for the first time. After saving a break point in the opening game, Murray was quickly into his stride. In Roger-Vasselin's first service game Murray came back from 40-0 down to win five points in a row, the first four of which were winners. The Scot dropped his serve when leading 4-0 but quickly recovered to take the first set in 30 minutes and went on to take the second thanks to an early break.
"You just try to win the first match, to play solid and not take too many risks," Murray said. "I won the close games, which was important. I didn't make too many mistakes. I returned well, served well. If you do those two things well on any surface, it gives you a good base to work from."
The clay-court season has only just started but Murray has good reason to look forward to his first appearance on grass at the Aegon Championships at Queen's Club in June. It was announced that on finals day Murray will partner Tim Henman in an exhibition doubles match against Ivan Lendl, the Scot's coach, and Tomas Berdych.
The match is in aid of the Royal Marsden, which is treating Ross Hutchins, one of Murray's closest friends, for cancer. "Now that I've spent a lot of time with Ivan, I would love to have the chance to play against him," Murray said.
Lendl had a reputation for hitting the ball at opponents who were at the net. "No doubt he'll be trying to do that," Murray smiled. Asked if he would take the opportunity to pay Lendl back for some of the hard work he puts him through in training, Murray said he would seek Berdych's assistance. "The best way of doing that is speaking to his partner to try and get an easy set-up," Murray said. "If we do that we'll definitely get him back."
Novak Djokovic, whose participation here had been in doubt until 24 hours earlier because of an ankle injury, lost the first four games and the opening set to Mikhail Youzhny but recovered to win 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. The world No 1 said afterwards that he was still feeling pain in his right ankle, which he twisted again in the second set, and had been unable to practise more than an hour a day.
Nadal, chasing a ninth consecutive Monte Carlo title, needed only 62 minutes to beat Matosevic 6-1, 6-2. The only time Nadal looked in any difficulty was when he went 2-0 down at the start of the second set. Matosevic had break points to lead 3-0, but once Nadal had successfully defended them the Spaniard wasted little time wrapping up his 43rd win in a row on these courts.
When Nadal went 5-2 up, Matosevic decided he had one last card to play. Walking back to his chair at the changeover, he knocked over Nadal's waterbottles, which the world No 5, as is his custom, had placed precisely in front of his chair. Nadal, however, simply laughed.
"It was not a pressure moment, it was a funny one," he said afterwards. "Maybe he thought that would affect my concentration. But it's just a routine to keep me focused. The only thing I did was put the bottles back in the same place."
Belfast Telegraph Digital