Defeated Murray no match for 'puncho' Gonzalez

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The Independent Online

The 18-year-old from Dunblane is far too young to know anything about the great Pancho Gonzales, but he knows plenty about the brutal game of "puncho'' Gonzalez. The Chilean has a reputation for being erratic, a hit-or-miss player. But when his pounding ground strokes with wicked spin find their desired target he can be virtually unplayable. To Murray's credit, he withstood a hammering, interspersed with drop shots that were more than a match for his own, before being put to the sword in the final set.

In this, his first year in the big time, Murray has gained admiration and acknowledgement of his potential by the way he has handled himself against Roger Federer, the world No 1, in his first ATP Tour final in Bangkok, and also here in Switzerland by beating Tim Henman, the British No 1, at the first time of asking.

Last night brought the latest lesson in his education, and he will surely gain from the experience of playing for 86 minutes against a rugged Latin American, who, if he could eradicate his impulse to blast so many of his shots wide, would be a contender for major honours.

Murray came close to taking the lead in an extraordinary fourth game of the opening set. Gonzalez, unable to believe his eyes over a line call, stared at the baseline judge for a long time after losing the first point. The Chilean would have had even more cause to raise his eyebrows had Murray not hit a smash wide at 30-30. Still, the game was in the balance, for Gonzalez double-faulted at 40-30. He managed to gain advantage but then appeared to be disorientated, moving to serve from the right side of the baseline when it should have been left. The umpire drew his attention to the error and Gonzalez finished the fraught game with a service winner.

Unfortunately for Murray, Gonzalez was not inclined to make mistakes at 3-3. He hit a booming second service return to 30-30 and then unleashed a cross court backhand drive that Murray turned into the net. On the breakpoint Murray attempted an ambitious backhand drop shot which landed in the net.

Gonzalez won the next three games to take the set after 31 minutes.

Such was the bombardment on Murray's serve early in the second set that it was a wonder he did not crumble. His resilience enabled him to save eight breakpoints in two service games, with Gonzalez holding to love in-between. Not only did Murray survive, but at 2-1 he drew warm applause by saving the eighth breakpoint of the set with three successive forehand volleys. The crowd responded favourably again when Murray won the game with a forehand into an empty court after forcing Gonzalez wide with an angled drop shot.

By this time Gonzalez may have wondered what he needed to do to crack his opponent, who suddenly went on to the attack and broke for 4-2. Gonzalez helped Murray's cause by narrowly missing a forehand down the line to 15-40.

Gonzalez gathered himself for another onslaught in the final set, and was not troubled after winning the opening two games. Overall the Chilean hit 51 winners and converted three of 13 breakpoints. Murray secured one of two. Contests like this will only help Murray to grasp the sheer competitive nature of the Tour.

Murray was less than thrilled with his display and also played down his standard of tennis for the week. "I am happy with the two wins that I got," he said, "but I am not happy with the way I played. Today, as soon as I got in a rally I was making a lot of mistakes. I wasn't hitting the ball well. And it was disappointing to lose so easily in the third set."

Murray now hopes to pay a rare visit to see his family in Scotland before getting back into training for next season. "I am going to talk to Mark [Petchey, his coach] but I'm pretty sure that's me done for the year."