Andy Murray stumbled into the third round of the French Open after clawing his way back from the abyss to defeat the French wild card Mathias Bourgue 6-2 2-6 4-6 6-2 6-3. In a match in which the Scot struggled throughout, his experience and superiour fitness eventually proved too much for the youngster.
Murray starts strongly but soon Bourgue powers ahead
After his struggles against the veteran Radek Stepanek, one could have been forgiven for thinking Murray would have made far lighter work of the unkown Frenchman.
The match opened evenly enough, with both players looking sharp under the long awaited sun. Crassly, Bourgue opened with an offensive minded game as he sought to try and push Murray onto the back foot, rushing to the net whenever the opportunity presented itself. Both players exchanged drop shots as they tried to tempt the other to the net for an easy winner and for Murray this worked, drawing Bourgue towards him before sending a disguised lob beyond his opponent.
However, Bourgue's early consistency eventually flaundered when he gifted Murray the crucial break in the set. Despite saving two break points, Bourgue needlessly landed a drop shot into the net and the break was Murray's. Perhaps it was the sudden aggression coming from the Murray racket which caused the error, but Bourgue found himself in trouble.
The set was sealed when Murray's resistant eventually proved too strong, with the Scot breaking him once more at 2-5 up as Bourgue again fired the ball into the bottom of the net.
Everything all looked too comfortable for the Scot and completely juxtaposed his opening round contest with Stapanek. However, the tide soon began to turn.
Bourgue begins to dominate the world number two
Inexplicably, Murray, from a break up, suddenly found himself 2-3 down in the second set, after three awful games on the trot gifted the advantage to the beleaguered Frenchman. Double faulting, firing shots long when they were harder to miss, and facing the wrath of a French crowd who had grown tired of watching their youngsters fall by the sword, Murray's opening set form now seemed a distant memory.
Bourgue, on the other hand, was playing like a man possessed and well beyond his lowly ranking. Greeting every point won with a roar that was matched by the crowd, his sudden upturn in form seemed to have coaxed the Scot into hiding. Gone was the aggressive tennis needed to win, and instead Murray found himself being dominated in almost every rally by a man outside of the world's top 100.
When Bourgue broke Murray once more at 2-4 with a world class backhand passing shot which left a bemused Murray staring into oblivion, Murray's chances of winnig the French Open seemed to pass him by with it.
The set was then sealed to love. The Parisians could barely contain their excitement. Murray was running out of places to hide.
As the situation grew progressively worse for Murray, he was broken in his opening service game, Bourgue showed little sign of letting up, capitalising on every little mistake or sign of weakness from the other side of the court.
Try as he might, Murray just could not find a way to break down the stubborn Frenchman, who seemed to better everything the Scot threw at him; a stunning drop shot on Murray's game point at 5-3 the highlight. Murray somehow squeezed out of that game to make it 5-4 to Bourgue, but he was doing little to suggest that he had another 'get out of jail' card in his deck.
In fact, not only was Bourgue playing far and above his ranking, he was also playing far and beyond the world number two. When Bourgue walloped another backhand beyond an impotent Murray the third set was sealed and suddenly Bourgue was on the cusp.
If things had looked bad for Murray at 1-1, they looked down right untenable at 1-2. The roar from the crowd said all that needed to be said. Their man was now closer to victory than defeat.
Hapeless Murray struggles to lift his performance
Where was Murray's usual effort and endeaour, usually enough to get him out of any sticky scenario? Seemingly left in the dressing room as he continued to produce some of his worst tennis in years, whilst Bourgue, who had never played against a top fifty player, nor even in in the main draw of a grand slam, looked infallible.
However, when it all seemed to be beyond him, a break for the Scot suddenly appeared from nowhere, as Murray took advantage of a wild inside-out forehand from Bourgue which flew well beyond the baseline. The first signs of weakness? A comfortable hold from Murray to back up the break suggested so.
The tennis coming from his racket was suddenly looking worthy of his reputation, hitting the ball deeper and even outdoing Bourgue on the big points; the biggest of which came at 15-30 on the Murray serve when another exchange of drop shots was expertly finished off by Murray with a backhand smash.
Murray's remarkable ability to resurrect himself from the dead was being put to the test once more and when he broke Bourgue to even up the tie at two sets all his divine talent seemed to have awoken.
When a determined Murray emerged for the start of the fifth and secured an early break against a tired looking Bourgue, it seemed now only a matter of 'when' and not 'if'.
The 'if' seemed to surface when Bourgue broke Murray as he served for the match at 5-1, before a strenuous hold for the Frenchman brought him back to within touching distance of the Scot.
But, the mini-revival was eventually put to bed when Murray held in his next service game, sealing the match point when Bourgue crashed a ball into the net, and unbelievably Murray had escaped for the second round in succession.