Having started his opening match in the Paris Masters shortly before midnight here yesterday, Andy Murray appeared determined not to hang around at the Palais des Omnisports. The 22-year-old Scot, however, found himself drawn into a desperately tight three-set contest with James Blake before winning 6-3, 6-7, 7-6 to earn a place against Radek Stepanek in today’s third round. The match finished at 1.45am after two hours and 13 minutes.
Murray had arrived here only 48 hours earlier after his victory in the Valencia Open on Sunday. With the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London only 11 days away, his main concern will be to go to the O2 Arena in the best possible condition.
Having taken a six-week break because of a wrist injury, Murray was understandably stiff after playing five matches in six days in Spain – after one match he said he felt “like a 50-year-old man” – and there were times here when he did not move with his usual freedom.
After scuttling across court to hit one lovely winning forehand cross-court pass in the second set the Scot grimaced and seemed to be feeling his groin. He also fell heavily on the penultimate point of the second set tie-break, cutting his right leg in the process.
Blake has had a poor time of it since losing to Murray in the final of the Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club, winning two matches in succession only once in the subsequent five months. The 29-year-old American, who was world No 4 three years ago, has slipped to No 41 in the rankings.
Murray broke to lead 3-1 in the first set, only for Blake to hit back immediately. Another break of serve restored the world No 4’s advantage at 5-3 and he promptly served out for the set. The second set was much closer. Murray took it into a tie-break in impressive fashion with four successive aces, but Blake, hitting his forehand with great power, made the first mini-break and was never behind, winning 7-5 to force the match into a decider.
The final set followed a similar pattern. Murray, who hit 22 aces in the match, rarely looked in trouble on his serve and this time got his nose in front in the tie-break. When Blake served at 4-5 Murray hit a winning backhand cross-court pass and went on to convert his first match point when Blake hit a backhand long.