If world No. 1 Andy Murray is going to win the French Open this year, he’s going to do it the hard way.
The Brit, who played poorly on the red dirt heading into Roland Garros, on Thursday narrowly avoided a five-setter with a late surge, coming from a break down in the fourth to defeat Martin Klizan 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-2, 7-6(3) to move into the third round.
“I certainly didn’t want a fifth set,” said Murray, who will next face No. 29 seed Juan Martin del Potro, who advanced when opponent Nicolas Almagro retired in the third set of their match. “At the end, there were some entertaining points. The atmosphere was great, as it always is out here. Tennis is a huge sport in France, they are very knowledgeable — they don’t like when we behave badly! I try to behave as good as I can but I can always do better.”
Murray berated himself and his players’ box much of the match, and will have to tighten-up against the fear-hand of the former US Open winner Del Potro.
“It will be very tough,” Murray said. “Juan Martin plays better than his ranking. He’s come back from his injuries and he’s had a lot of tough matches this year, playing lots of Top 10 players early in the tournaments. I am sure we will get a good atmosphere.”
Del Potro consoled his opponent Almagro on the sidelines after the distraught Spaniard was forced to retire with a knee injury.
“I tried to find a good words for that moment,” Del Potro said. “Try to be calm. Try to think about your family, your baby. And sometimes the heart is first, more than the tennis match or the tennis life. Hopefully he can feel better very, very soon, because he’s a great player and we love to have him on tour.”
The three other Top 10 seeds in action Thursday all eased through in straight sets as No. 3 Stan Wawrinka caged Alexandr “The Dog” Dolgopolov 6-4, 7-6(5), 7-5, No. 7 Marin Cilic beat Russian Konstantin Kravchuk 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, and No. 8 Kei Nishikori held off France’s Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 6-0, 7-6(5).
Orchestrating upsets Thursday were Russian Karen Khachanov who straight-setted No. 13 Tomas Berdych 7-5, 6-4, 6-4; South African Kevin Anderson who came from a set down to defeat No. 18 Nick Kyrgios 5-7, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2; and Feliciano Lopez who won the all-Spanish battle with No. 30 David Ferrer in five sets 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.
“I feel like each week I’m playing better and better tennis,” said Anderson, who didn’t start his year until February due to various injuries. “My body feels really strong and healthy, which is the biggest focus. For a while I feel like I’ve been hitting the ball as well as I’ve ever hit it in my career. It took me a little bit of time to try to find that same form on the match court. When you’re just away from competition it’s impossible to simulate that.”
Also into the third round among the lower seeds were No. 15 Gael Monfils, No. 21 John Isner, No. 22 Pablo Cuevas, No. 24 Richard Gasquet, and No. 28 Fabio Fognini.
Monfils and Gasquet will next meet in an all-French affair.
“The next match will be very important,” Monfils said. “What I like, especially when I play in Grand Slam tournaments, is that momentum where match after match you not only play consistently but you play better and better.”
Nishikori will next face Korean Hyeon Chung in an all-Asian meeting.
“Today was a very good match, especially winning 12 games in a row,” Nishikori said. “I think I was feeling very confident, so I was dictating a lot with my backhand and forehand.”
Matches to look for Friday on the grounds of Roland Garros include (4) Rafael Nadal vs. Nikoloz Basilashvili, (2) Novak Djokovic vs. Diego Schwartzman, (11) Grigor Dimitrov vs. (20) Pablo Carreno Busta, (6) Dominic Thiem vs. (25) Steve Johnson, and (5) Milos Raonic vs. Guillermo “G-Lo” Garcia-Lopez.
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