Murray defies ankle pain to wrest back initiative

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The Independent Online

Never write off Andy Murray. When the 24-year-old Scot, clearly troubled by the ankle injury sustained in his previous match, trailed Viktor Troicki by two sets here last night it seemed his French Open ambitions were about to be ground into the Roland Garros dust, but after a typically spirited comeback he will be back to fight another day.

As the light faded fast, the fourth-round contest was called off at 9.30pm with the score at 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, Murray having levelled the match after two hours and 52 minutes. The two men return to Court Suzanne Lenglen this afternoon to decide who will face Juan Ignacio Chela in the quarter-finals.

Murray had decided to play only following an early-afternoon practice session. At the start of the match it was evident that he was still troubled by the injury he suffered when turning his right ankle against Michael Berrer in the previous round. The world No 4 twice smashed rackets in frustration as he went two sets down, but his movement improved as the match wore on. By the end he was well on top.

In the early stages in particular Murray appeared torn between playing his natural counter-attacking game and going for his shots, but he gradually found a happy balance. Some of his shot-making was spectacular and exposed Troicki's limitations. The 25-year-old Serb is ranked No 15 in the world but lacked the subtlety to take full advantage of Murray's difficulties.

Nevertheless, when Troicki raced into a 5-0 lead after just 17 minutes it seemed that the end would be swift. Clearly concerned about his ankle, Murray moved cautiously around the court and was repeatedly outrallied. From out of nothing, however, the Scot played himself back into the match. With Murray going for his shots, Troicki looked bewildered as a stream of winners flew past his racket.

After 37 minutes, having pulled the score back to 5-4, Murray slid into a shot for the first time. However, he failed to convert two break points for 5-5 and when Troicki outmanoeuvred him to create set point he smashed his racket on the floor in frustration, for which he was given a code violation. A backhand struck long on the next point gave Troicki the set.

Murray, nevertheless, could draw encouragement from the manner of his comeback and drew first blood in the second set, breaking to lead 4-2, only to drop serve twice in a row. When Troicki created two set points at 5-4 Murray broke a second racket by slamming it into his shoe. The Scot levelled to deuce, Troicki squandering the second set point with a double fault, but could not prevent a service winner on the third.

Midway through the third set Murray asked for a trainer to remove the strapping on his ankle, which had apparently been chafing his skin. When Troicki served at 3-4 the Scot saved three game points with scorching winners and then converted his first break point with a stunning forehand before serving out to take the set.

From 2-2 in the fourth set Murray won four games in succession. He broke to lead 3-2 with a big forehand return and again two games later with a superb winning forehand cross-court pass. His tail up, the Scot created two set points with an ace and converted the first of them with another big serve. It was an appropriate finish to the day after an excellent fightback by the Scot, who, suspect ankle permitting, will be the favourite to go on and complete the job this afternoon.

Chela beat Alejandro Falla 4-6, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6, 6-2 after nearly four hours. The Argentinian world No 34 is through to the last eight of a Grand Slam tournament for the second time here. Chela made the quarter-finals here in 2004, when his run was ended by an unlikely winner on clay: Tim Henman.