Murray Extends His Clay-Court Streak As He Survives Scare vs. Sousa

Andy Murray is safely through to the third round of Roland Garros after being tested by Portugal's Joao Sousa. It was the pairs sixth meeting, with Murry leading the head-to-head 5-0 and winning the past twelve sets against Sousa. Murray is on a mission to win his first French Open title whereas unseeded Sousa was attempting to reach his first third round in Paris. 

The first game was over twelve minutes long with very high quality play from both ends of the court instantly. Murray attempted to wear down Sousa with heavy groundstrokes, but Joao kept hanging on. Eventually, the Brit broke serve to lead 1-0 in the first set. That first game was very important, and it gave us an indication of the match we were about the witness. Murray pulled Joao around, but Sousa kept hanging on only to eventually let Murray get the better of him. 

Murray was clearly in good shape physically as he reached every ball and sent it back to Sousa powerfully. His groundstrokes were deep and very precise, giving his opponent little oportunity to gain the upper hand. The first set was plain sailing for Murray as he took it 6-2. He returned Sousa's serve close to the baseline as usual, which gave him the ability to return shots precisely and powerfully. However, Sousa was playing intensely and was clearly determined, trying to stay inside the baseline to score winners deep in the corners or on the lines, but Murray controlled everything he threw at him very well. There was just not much Sousa could do as Murray was executing everything consistently well. 

The second set was a different story altogether. Sousa's spirits had not yet been deflated, and he was prepared to take risks. When his risky yet strong forehands paid off, the reward was huge. The underdog stayed close to Murray, holding his service games easily. His effort and energy levels were impressive, and he managed to break Murray's serve to love to lead 5-3 in the second set. Two-time Grand Slam champion Murray was not done yet... With a huge 'LET'S GO!', he broke back. Sousa carried on fighting, and when he finally gained a set point on his serve, he took his opportunity to win the set and level the match.

The big question was how long Sousa could sustain his incredible level. Murray's dominance on his second serve points had dropped, so he lacked in rhythm, allowing Sousa to pull off some incredible shots based off a strong return. The pendulum was swinging backwards and forwards throughout the third set, especially in a tight game at 2-1. Murray had to save two break points, which he did so wonderfully with strong serves, one of them an ace. A pulsating, phenomenal point gave Murray advantage with a great reaction from him and the crowd. The umpire, Pascal Maria gave Murray a questionable time violation warning, bothering the Brit but not preventing him from winning the point. The match had turned back in Murray's favor, and from that moment on, Sousa lost his spark. 

Murray closed out the third set without any issues due to his increased aggression and confidence. Perhaps one of the most impressive aspects of his game was his first serve return points won, which was as high as 82% overall, but reached 100% at times. Sousa was desperate to hold his serve, which eventually he did with a gutsy deep passing shot. He was doing everything he could to keep his hopes alive, which is commendable. 

Once Murray had a two-sets-to-one lead, the last set was simple and quick. A convincing combination of errors from Sousa and aggression from Murray allowed him to close out the set 6-1. The match was tight at times for the third seed, but like a true professional, his experience paid off. 

Murray will face Nick Kyrgios in the third roud, which will hopefully be a thrilling encounter. The duo have met twice before with Murray winning both encounters, but Kyrgois is in good form and has been improving drastically recently. Nonetheless, Murray remains unbeaten on clay in 2015. Who can break his record?

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