Murray proves that you can't win in Monte Carlo
Friday 15 April 2011
There can be no pleasing some people – and the sporting public of Monte Carlo are probably more particular in their tastes than most. Twelve months after booing Andy Murray off the court for the manner of his defeat in the Monte Carlo Masters, the Monégasques yesterday jeered the world No 4 for the manner of his 6-3, 6-3 victory over Gilles Simon.
Beating the last Frenchman in the tournament was the least of Murray's sins. Simon injured his right ankle three points from the end of the first set – in which Murray had already taken command – and his movement was never the same thereafter. Murray, sensibly taking advantage, went on to win a succession of points with drop shots, to the displeasure of many spectators.
Every time Murray hit the ball short he was booed and jeered by the crowd, who also let him know what they thought after his victory, which earned a quarter-final meeting today with Portugal's Frederico Gil. It was a wonder that Murray was not pelted with foie gras and caviar from the dining terrace that overlooks the court.
It could be safe to assume that the world No 4 will not be taking his holidays in the principality in the near future. The locals were not slow to show their disapproval last year, when he performed miserably in winning only three games against Philipp Kohlschreiber in his first match.
This was a very different display. If the second set was easier than Murray would have expected, the first saw the 23-year-old Scot play some excellent tennis, in total contrast to the dreadful form he had shown between the Australian Open semi-finals and his first match on clay against Radek Stepanek 24 hours earlier.
Simon is a fine performer on this surface but the world No 24 was unsettled by Murray's clever variations of spin and pace, his rock-solid defence and unpredictable combination of thumping backhands, drop shots – even before the 26-year-old Frenchman's injury – and occasional volleys.
Murray had taken command with a break of serve in the seventh game before Simon turned his ankle in saving a set point two games later. He resumed after lengthy treatment, with the ankle heavily strapped, but Murray promptly took the next two points and the set.
Thereafter it was Monte Carlo or bust for Simon, who went for his shots at every opportunity. The Frenchman broke to love in the opening game of the second set but was clearly in trouble every time he had to move sharply. Murray, whose drop-shot strategy was entirely reasonable, briefly lost focus when he dropped two games from 5-1 up but quickly regained his composure to serve out for the match.
"Concentration can be hard when you know you're in the driving seat," Murray said afterwards. "I just wanted to put my foot down and finish the match as efficiently as possible. The drop shot was winning almost every single point for me. I had to keep him moving."
Murray has never met 26-year-old Gil at tour level but remembers playing him on the Futures circuit. The world No 82, who beat Gaël Monfils 7-6, 6-2, reached his only tour final on clay in Estoril last summer. "I watched some of his match today and he played really well," Murray said. "He can play well on clay. He's proved that by getting to the quarters here this week."
The winner of the quarter-final will play Rafael Nadal or Ivan Ljubicic, who enjoyed straight-sets wins over Richard Gasquet and Tomas Berdych respectively. In the other quarter-finals Roger Federer faces Jurgen Melzer, while David Ferrer will take on Viktor Troicki.
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