Thursday, 26 May 2016

Andy in five for a second time

Andy Murray scared the living daylights out of his family, friends and fans at Roland Garros on Day 4, which is something he has been doing ever since he arrived in Paris as one of this year's favourites to win the French Open.  Well his displays haven't exactly provided much material evidence to suggest the winner's trophy will be in his hands come next Sunday.
Yet again, he found himself having to win the final two sets to escape embarrassment, this time in the form of a second round exit at the hands of French player Mathias Bourgue, ranked 164, but contributing a performance worthy of a much higher rating.

Still Andy is in the third round, albeit a bit battered and bruised from all the effort asked of him, and desperate for a shorter method to reach the round of sixteen.  Fortunately his next opponent was also on court in his second round match for five sets.  Ivo Karlovic won 12-10 in that elongated decider, and the shattered loser was Australian Jordan Thompson. who had won two of the three tie breakers required before entering the finale.  One thing Andy will be liking is Ivo's desire to decide points quickly, because extended rallies are at the centre of the number two seed's worst nightmares at present.

Gilles Simon was one French favourite who used the five sets to make a monumental comeback.  Down 6-4 6-1 and not looking the best in Set three against Argentine Guido Pella, the crowd stuck with Simon and helped carry him over the line, winning the final three sets.

Gilles was a highlight on a not so good day for France with Caroline Garcia ousted by a sharp second seed Aga Radwanska in straight sets.  While Garcia going was not an upset,  the departure of Lucas Pouille was, especially the nature of his loss in only three sets to Slovak Andrej Martin, ranked 133 in the world.  Pouille has improved his ranking this year through wins over some top players and consistent tournament performances, and was expected to take more advantage of his number 29 seed.

Mannarino was no match for Raonic, crushed in straight sets, but France was hoping for more from 19th seed Benoit Paire, whose Roland Garros adventure was over thanks to a four set disaster caused by Russian Teymuraz Gabashvili.

The local crowd did have plenty to cheer about late in the day, even if there wasn't a French player involved in this match.  For over three and a half hours they witnessed the finest women's singles contest yet at this year's tournament.
American Coco Vandeweghe took the opening set, somewhat surprisingly, against 25th seed Irina-Camelia Begu from Romania.  Begu had been my pre tournament pick to reach the quarters at the expense of Vinci (gone first round), Pliskova (gone first round) and Kvitova (still around and looking ok).  So with Coco a set up and her big serve and neat volleys causing issues for Begu, my tip was in peril.

Then it was the turn of Irina-Camelia to demonstrate using her large box of tricks, and her subtle placement, and ability to accelerate through her ground strokes more than she makes it appear, slightly trumped the power advantage of the American.
After two sets it was a tie break apiece.

No service breaks in the final set until the ninth game when Coco lifted her game.  However Irina-Camelia did likewise when at 5-4 Coco served for the match but was broken right back.  The tennis was of a consistently high standard for round two, and the seeded player, Begu, eventually broke through with her second match point, taking her place in the third round with a 6-7 7-6 10-8 victory

Most of the other women's matches were straight sets wins, with the top seeds and favourites winning through, including Muguruza, Halep, Kvitova, Safarova and Stephens.

Similarly for the men with Wawrinka, Nishikori, Isner, Kyrgios, and a couple of Frenchmen to balance the ledger a bit, Gasquet and Chardy.

Andy Murray may have some temporary respite but his quarter final could be problematic given the form of Nishikori, Gasquet and Kyrgios.  Any of those is his likely opposition in the last eight.
Gasquet plays Kyrgios and the winner of that will be the round of sixteen opponent for Nishikori who should beat Verdasco next up.  Whoever wins that is in the quarter final against Murray if the Scot keeps winning which is highly likely despite his rocky start.

So no guarantees for even the very best players on the Paris clay as we approach quickly the start of Day 5.

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