Andy Murray's stunning Toronto triumph over Roger Federer last weekend seemed like a distant memory as the Scot struggled to book his place in the third round of the Cincinnati Masters last night.
Often looking woefully out of sorts, Murray needed two hours and nine minutes to defeat the French world number 58 Jeremy Chardy and move into the next round where he will face Latvia's Ernests Gulbis.
Murray described his day's work as "frustrating" and admitted: "Up to 6-3 and 4-3 I was feeling fine, I wasn't making any mistakes and he was just going for everything and making lots of errors. I didn't serve particularly well but it was more the way I was hitting the ball from the back of the court. I was hitting the ball short, I wasn't moving my legs at all and he got into a bit of rhythm."
Even by Murray's own inconsistent standards his second set lapse was dramatic as he lost three service games in a row before rallying in the decisive set to finally chisel out a 6-3 6-7 6-2 success.
Murray had looked set to ease into the third round with the minimum of fuss after rifling through a dominant first set in which he conceded just three points on his serve. The Scot grabbed the crucial break in the sixth game when a sliced return forced Chardy to net and at that point the error-strewn Frenchman seemed likely to capitulate quickly.
After missing two set points on the Chardy serve at 3-5, Murray duly fired a pair of aces to hold to love and take the first set with little sign of the problems that would soon afflict him.
The second set was an entirely different matter for Murray who would lose his serve three times in succession and ultimately gift-wrap a way back into the match for his opponent.
Despite drawing first blood with a superb backhand cross-court winner to break for a 3-2 lead, it was the first of an extraordinary sequence of six consecutive breaks as both players struggled. Murray served for the match at 5-4 and held a single match point only to be broken back and pushed into the tie-break, where the Scot lost six points in a row to allow Chardy to take the breaker 7-3.
Murray recovered for the third set, starting it by holding to love before Chardy called a time-out for treatment to a right foot problem. Murray broke for 3-1 and managed to step up to finally see off his tiring opponent.