Murray reverses slump to stay alive

 

Flushing Meadows

Andy Murray had said he needed to save his best tennis for the latter stages, but everybody thought he was referring to the tournament rather than individual matches.

The 24-year-old Scot made a horrible start to his second-round match against Robin Haase in the US Open here last night but recovered to win a roller-coaster of a contest 6-7, 2-6, 6-2, 6-0, 6-4 after three hours and 23 minutes. He is through to the third round here for the seventh year in succession and next plays Feliciano Lopez, the Spaniard nicknamed "Deliciano" by Murray's mother. The Scot has won all five of their previous matches, most recently in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.

It was the sixth time in his career that Murray has won a match from two sets down. He had done so most recently at this year's French Open, when Viktor Troicki not only led by two sets but was on the brink of victory when he served at 5-3 and 30-0 in the decider.

For two sets Murray looked leaden-footed and sluggish. Haase, an erratic big hitter with plenty of flashy shots, produced some splendid winners in the first two sets, but the 24-year-old Dutchman is an erratic performer and his form dipped as Murray's rose. In the final three sets Murray played some excellent tennis, though a better opponent might have punished him for his poor start.

The match was played in warm sunshine and a stiff breeze in Louis Armstrong Stadium, the second show court here. Murray lost on the same court in both 2007 (to Nikolay Davydenko) and last year, when he gave one of his most disappointing Grand Slam performances in going down to Stanislas Wawrinka.

Haase began in typical fashion, cracking a huge forehand winner on the very first point. Murray's first serve looked in good shape in the first set, in which he hit nine aces, but he kept struggling to hold. Haase broke in the seventh game, hitting two big forehands on his seventh break point. Murray had won only four points in Haase's first four service games, but broke to 15 when the Dutchman served for the set at 5-4.

The Scot won the first three points of the tie-break but his form suddenly dipped after hitting a double fault. Having saved the first set point with a return which hit the top of the net and trickled over, Murray put a forehand wide on the second.

Despite losing the first set there did not appear to be any major cause for concern, but Murray played a woeful second set. Errors flowed from his forehand and he won just one of 13 points on his second serve. Murray went 3-0 down, recovered to 3-2 but then lost serve twice in succession. The final game of the set summed up Murray's performance as the Scot made two forehand errors in succession.

The Scot seemed desperately flat, but when he broke in the third game of the third set we heard the Murray roar at last. The change in the world No 4's demeanour was instant. He suddenly started playing with more energy, cut out the errors and hit the ball with rediscovered confidence. Haase, meanwhile, was starting to suffer physically and took a medical time-out for treatment on what appeared to be a lower back problem at the end of the third set.

Murray won 13 games in a row and appeared to be in total command when he took a 4-0 lead in the decider. From out of nowhere, however, Haase found a new lease of life. Going for his shots and rediscovering his rhythm on his forehand, the Dutchman broke twice in succession to level at 4-4.

Thankfully for Murray, the storm blew itself out in the following game as a combination of Haase's wild shots and the Scot's consistent hitting helped him to break back. The drama, nevertheless, was not over. Murray, serving for the match, went 0-30 down, recovered to create match point with a forehand that flicked the top of the net and then put a forehand long. Haase saved a second match point with a forehand cross-court winner, on which he made a successful Hawk-Eye challenge, but on the third he put a forehand long.

Murray admitted that he had felt sluggish at the start but turned the match around with his improved movement. "I started slowly," he said. "He was playing great. I should have won the first set tie-break but I made a few mistakes."

Rafael Nadal moved into the third round when Nicolas Mahut retired hurt after losing the first two sets. It was the 12th retirement of the tournament, equalling the record for a Grand Slam even in the Open era.

Wawrinka, who was a possible fourth-round opponent for Murray, lost in five sets to Donald Young, who now faces Juan Ignacio Chela, the winner to face Murray or Lopez. Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 champion, maintained his impressive progress, beating his fellow Argentine Diego Junqueira 6-2, 6-1, 7-5.

Results

US Open, Flushing Meadows, New York, US, Men's Singles, Second Round: (28) J Isner (US) bt R Ginepri (US) 6-4 6-3 6-4; (18) J Martin Del Potro (Arg) bt D Junqueira (Arg) 6-2 6-1 7-5; (24) J Ignacio Chela (Arg) bt S Darcis (Bel) 6-2 6-4 6-4; J Benneteau (Fr) bt D Istomin (Uzb) 6-4 6-4 6-4; G Muller (Lux) bt E Gulbis (Lat) 3-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 7-6 (7-5); R Nadal (Sp) bt N MAHUT (Fr) 6-2 6-2 ret; (12) G Simon (Fr) bt G Garcia-Lopez (Sp) 6-4 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 6-3, D Young (US) bt (14) S Wawrinka (Swit) 7-6 (9-7) 3-6 2-6 6-3 7-6 (7-1), I Kunitsyn (Rus) bt (17) J Melzer (Aut) 3-6 6-3 1-6 6-2 7-6 (7-5); D Nalbandian (Arg) bt (30) I Ljubicic (Cro) 6-4 1-6 6-3 6-2, (25) F Lopez (Sp) bt V Pospisil (Can) 5-7 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-5); (4) A Murray (GB) bt R Haase (Neth) 6-7 (7-5) 2-6 6-2 6-0 6-4.

Men's Doubles Second Round: J Delgado (GB) & J Marray (GB) bt (12) M Melo (Br) & B Soares (Br) 6-3 6-7 (8-10) 7-6 (7-2); S Bolelli (It) & F Fognini (It) bt I Karlovic (Cro) & F Moser (Ger) 7-6 (7-3) 6-3.

Women's Singles Third Round: M Niculescu (Rom) bt (27) L Safarova (Cz Rep) 6-0 6-1; (13) S Peng (Chin) bt (19) J Görges (Ger) 6-4 7-6 (7-1).(2) V Zvonareva (Rus) bt (30) A Medina Garrigues (Sp) 6-4 7-5; (26) F Pennetta (It) bt (3) M Sharapova (Rus) 6-3 3-6 6-4; (22) S Lisicki (Ger) bt I Falconi (US) 6-0 6-1; A Kerber (Ger) bt A Kudryavtseva (Rus) 6-3 6-1.

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