Winning matches on clay can often take time, but this was something else. Nearly 25 hours after he walked on court to face Argentina's Juan Ignacio Chela here at the French Open, Andy Murray last night completed a 6-2, 6-7, 6-3, 6-2 victory to take his place in the third round.
Court 1's electronic scoreboard was glowing brightly in the gloom as Murray struck the winning backhand shortly before 9pm. By that time the match was in its fourth session after another day when players dodged rain showers like taxi drivers weaving their way through traffic on the Champs-Elysées.
The match itself lasted three and a half hours and was a major test of Murray's concentration. He passed it in the end, despite letting Chela back into the contest in the second set. By the finish the world No 4 was mixing controlled aggression with some perfectly judged drop shots and clever changes of pace.
Murray said he had had little experience coping with matches played over such a long period of time and had felt nervous at the start. "It was a good experience for me, though I could maybe have dealt with it a little bit better," he said. "I actually felt fine as soon as I went behind. I felt much better. That's a bit strange, but that's how it was."
The match had been called off for bad light at 9.30pm on Wednesday and did not resume until after 5pm yesterday as the programme was delayed by nearly five hours. Murray had dominated the previous night's session, though he had left the court frustrated at failing to hold on to his advantage in the second set, Chela having broken in the last game of the day to level at 3-3.
Chela had the better of the first two rain-interrupted sessions yesterday, which lasted for a total of just 49 minutes. The Argentine hit the ball with more conviction and made fewer mistakes than he had the previous evening and never trailed in the second set tie-break, which he won 7-5.
The world No 54 again came out the stronger at the start of what proved to be the final session at 7.30pm, but breaking serve to lead 3-2 in the third set proved his last hurrah. Murray's response was excellent. The Scot won 10 of the last 12 games to earn a third-round meeting today with Marcos Baghdatis, who beat Marcel Granollers 4-6, 6-1, 7-5, 6-2.
"It got dark quickly today," Murray said. "At the end of the match, I was lucky in that I managed to get another break, because I think we would have had two games left at most. That was what was quite tough yesterday. You need to stay focused the whole time, but you know when you go on there's no chance of you finishing the match."
Baghdatis, the world No 30, has won his only two matches against Murray, though their last meeting was three years ago. "Andy is a great player – not only a great player, but a great fighter on court," the Cypriot said.
Gaël Monfils, who lost to Roger Federer in the semi-finals and quarter-finals here in 2008 and 2009 respectively, was beaten 2-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 9-7 by Italy's Fabio Fognini in another match held over from the previous night, while Andy Roddick beat Slovenia's Blaz Kavcic 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2.
The latest instalment in Ana Ivanovic's tale of woe saw the 22-year-old Serb lose 6-3, 6-0 to Russia's Alisa Kleybanova in just 66 minutes. Ivanovic, who is now No 42 in the world rankings, was celebrating her first Grand Slam title here in a swish restaurant near the Arc de Triomphe only two years ago. After this performance a visit to a fast-food takeaway might have been more appropriate.Reuse content