French Open 2014: Andy Murray eyes tie with Aussie 'Mad Dog' after he and Heather Watson pass opening tests

 

Roland Garros

On a day when a second Australian Open champion failed to survive challenging conditions here at the French Open, Andy Murray was more than happy to pass his first test. Playing his first match at Roland Garros for two years after missing the 2013 event with a back injury, Murray beat Kazakhstan’s Andrey Golubev 6-1, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to earn a second-round meeting with Australia’s Marinko Matosevic.

With Li Na following Stanislas Wawrinka out of the tournament by losing 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 to France’s Kristina Mladenovic – the first time in history that both singles champions at the previous Grand Slam event have gone out in the first round – Murray was well aware of the threat posed by Golubev on a damp and chilly afternoon on Court Suzanne Lenglen. The world No 53 is an aggressive shot-maker who can trouble the best.

When Murray took the opening set in 34 minutes a quick victory seemed on the cards, but the world No 8’s serving level dropped and Golubev was quick to take advantage. Murray, nevertheless, stopped the rot by winning the first three games of the fourth set and eventually served out for victory after two hours and 35 minutes.

Murray’s pleasure was evident in an interview on the court with Fabrice Santoro after the match. The Scot joked that he had not found a coach yet because “not many people want to work with me”. When Santoro gave him his business card, Murray having inquired whether he would be interested in the job, the Scot kissed it and laughed.

Matosevic, the world No 66, had never won a Grand Slam match in 12 previous attempts until his victory last night over Dustin Brown, which he celebrated by falling on his back and then rolling over and over on the court. He has objected in the past to his nickname of “Mad Dog”, but Murray said it was deserved.

The Scot was asked at his post-match press conference to recount the craziest thing he had seen Matosevic do. “To be honest I couldn’t say here in front of all you guys,” Murray said. “He’s an interesting character, that’s for sure. He always makes everyone laugh and smile.”

There are not many days when British supporters can celebrate two singles victories here, but Murray’s match followed a good win by Heather Watson, who beat the world No 63, Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-4. It was Watson’s first Grand Slam victory since she was diagnosed with glandular fever more than a year ago, after which she struggled to find her form and tumbled down the world rankings. Only three months ago the 22-year-old was world No 161, but she is back at No 92 after her victory in the Prague Open earlier this month. She is set to reclaim the British  No 1 position from Laura Robson, who is currently injured.

Watson never looked back after taking a 3-0 lead at the start of her ninth successive victory on clay. She even survived the embarrassment of an “air shot” when attempting a smash. Remarkably, she turned around to play the ball after it had bounced behind her and won the point as a bemused Zahlavova Strycova missed her subsequent volley.

Next up for Watson is Romania’s Simona Halep, the world No 4 and the most improved player in the women’s game. Watson promised to continue with her attacking approach. “If anything, I’ll try and be more aggressive against a player like that who is so high up in the rankings, doing so well,” she said.

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