Andy Murray's chances of going deep into the second week of the French Open are hanging in the balance after the world No 4 suffered an ankle injury during his 6-2 6-3 6-2 victory over Germany's Michael Berrer here yesterday. Despite showing admirable character to see out the win, having suffered the injury early in the second set, Murray is by no means certain to make it to the start line for his fourth-round match tomorrow against Viktor Troicki.
"I've just got to wait and see and do all the right things," Murray said afterwards. "I'll try and hit some balls tomorrow. That's all I can do just now.
"I don't know if I'll be playing the next match. I don't know if I'll be 100 per cent fit. Maybe I will be. You never know with these things."
Murray has worn a brace on his left ankle since he hurt it at Queen's Club six years ago, but the right had never been a problem until he turned it while chasing a Berrer drop-shot at deuce when leading 2-1 in the second set. As the 24-year-old Scot hit a winning forehand down the line he spun round in pain and hopped briefly on one leg before falling on his back, after which he lay on the ground, clutching his head in his hands.
Having limped back to his seat, Murray took a medical time-out, during which he was given a painkiller and had the ankle strapped. He had been in control of the match at that stage, having broken serve in the second and eighth games to take the first set. Although he won the next point after the resumption to break Berrer once again, his prospects did not look good when he promptly dropped his own serve to love.
What followed, however, was remarkable. Murray, his movement clearly restricted, started going for his shots and hit some wonderful winners, while Berrer went into his shell. The 30-year-old German, playing in the third round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time, admitted afterwards that he had felt sorry for his opponent.
The situation cried out for Berrer to continue with the drop shots that had brought him regular rewards – even if the same strategy earned Murray the wrath of the Monte Carlo crowd when he used it against a stricken Gilles Simon last month – but instead the world No 95 barely stretched his opponent.
"It was really one of the worst feelings I ever had on the court," Berrer said. "That was a very big chance. You get a chance like this maybe once in your life. It's not an excuse, but the way I am I felt sorry for him. I should have hurt him when he was down, but that's difficult for me. It was making me so tight. I couldn't really focus or get a clear thought. I think you cannot play worse in this situation than I did."
The German, who thought theinjury was going to force Murray toretire, said he had been "really stupid",and added: "In Germany we have a saying that an injured deer has to fall. That's what I should have done today."
Murray, who said he would have a scan on the ankle, feared his tournament was over immediately after he suffered the injury. "It was very sore and it was very sore afterwards," he said. "I did really well to come through, because I didn't really move a whole lot. I was lucky in that respect. He didn't play particularly well afterwards and that helped, but I did as best I could with what I had."
If he fails to recover in time the injury will be a desperately unlucky blow for Murray, who also hurt his elbow last month. The Scot has been playing the best clay-court tennis of his career and the draw here was looking particularly favourable for him. He has beaten Troicki, his next opponent, three times without losinga set, while the winner of their meeting will face either Juan Ignacio Chela (world No 34) or Alejandro Falla (No 120) in the quarter-finals.
Murray is seeded to meet Rafael Nadal, a crushing 6-1 6-3 6-0 winner over Croatia's Antonio Veic, in the semi-finals. Troicki was also in physical difficulty, having gone down with food poisoning earlier in the week. Although the 25-year-old Serb beat Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-4 in the third round of the singles, he retired only three games into his doubles match later in the afternoon.
Novak Djokovic, who played alongside Troicki in Serbia's Davis Cup triumph at the end of last year, maintained his extraordinary run, winninghis 42nd match in succession by beating Juan Martin del Potro 6-3 3-66-3 6-2, the match having resumed after bad light ended play on Friday night with the score at one set apiece.
Djokovic, who now plays Richard Gasquet, has won all 40 matches he has played this year and is now only two wins short of John McEnroe's record winning start to a season.