Murray clears his throat with rapid win
Thursday 29 May 2008
The French do not have a phrase for it, so the difference between Andy Murray's first two victories here might best be described as that between Chaumes and Cheddar. Three days after a patchy performance saw him taken to five sets by the world No 387, Murray produced one of his best displays on a clay court to beat Argentina's Jose Acasuso 6-4, 6-0, 6-4 and claim a place in the third round of the French Open.
Still recovering from a throat infection, Murray had diced with danger by playing too passively in periods of his first-round match on Sunday against the French teenager, Jonathan Eysseric. Against Acasuso, a strapping 25-year-old Argentine who has played all his best tennis on this surface, Murray was positive and aggressive from the start.
Every department of Murray's game looked in good shape. The British No 1 hit nine aces, found an immediate rhythm on his ground strokes, volleyed sweetly and rediscovered the touch on his drop shots which had so let him down against Eysseric. Tactically he could hardly have played a better match and Acasuso became so dispirited by the Scot's ability to surprise him with sudden injections of pace that he twice smashed his racket by hurling it to the floor.
Murray admitted he had been fired up by the criticism directed at him after his first match. "Sometimes you go on the court and you feel like you've got a little something to prove," he said. "I obviously didn't play my best match the other day, but I wasn't feeling great. I think my performances have been pretty decent on clay this year. I've lost to some of the best clay-court players in the world in the matches that I have lost.
"I still feel like I'm getting questioned as to why I'm not doing better. When I went on the court today I wanted to go and show that I can beat the top clay-court players. Acasuso might not be a Federer or Djokovic or Nadal, but he's ranked in the 40s and is at his best on clay. I went out and played great and showed that I'm a very good player on clay.
"It was a great performance. I did everything well. I served and returned well and didn't make too many mistakes. I was very aggressive and my shot selection was excellent."
The match was played on Court 3, a 1,200-seat arena in the shadow of the main show court. Although the stands were packed it was too one-sided a contest to whip the crowd into a frenzy and more noise came from the adjoining court, where France's Michael Llodra was putting out Tomas Berdych, the world No 11.
The match did not start until shortly before 7pm and from the moment he played a delicate half-volley on the first point Murray looked in a hurry to get the job done. He broke serve immediately, converting his first break point by stepping in to hit an early backhand return winner, and served out for the set. Acasuso seemed to lose heart after dropping serve in the opening game of the second set, which Murray won in 22 minutes.
In the final set Acasuso's eighth double fault gave Murray the crucial break in the seventh game. The Argentine had two break points when Murray served for the match, the first of them after the Scot complained to the umpire that his racket had hit a line judge's head as he played his shot, but failed to take them.
Murray now faces Nicolas Almagro, a 22-year-old ranked No 20 in the world. Murray said he considered the Spaniard one of the game's best clay-courters.
Novak Djokovic was the first man into the third round after a quick-fire demolition of Miguel Angel Lopez Jaen, while Rafael Nadal, the defending men's champion, made heavy weather of beating Thomaz Bellucci in the first round, winning 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 after two hours and 34 minutes.
Serena Williams and Ana Ivanovic stayed on course for their quarter-final meeting with victories over Mathilde Johansson and Lucie Safarova respectively.
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