World number two Andy Murray kept the possibility of claiming the top spot in the rankings alive with a battling 6-3, 6-7(5), 7-5 win over an inspired Fernando Verdasco in the second round of the BNP Paribas Masters. Murray will now face Lucas Pouille for a place in the quarterfinals of the penultimate tournament of the season.
The first set was relatively uneventful, Murray just had to stay solid and was gifted the break in a loose game from Verdasco, the one break being enough to give the Brit the opening set. The next two sets were the polar opposite of the first and although Murray had twice battled back from a break down in the second set, Verdasco played a near-perfect tiebreak to level the match. The Spaniard raised his level significantly from the first set and was crunching punishing winners from every part of the court. Murray looked to be succumbing to the pressure in the late stages of the decider as Verdasco earned a couple of break points that would have allowed him to serve for the match, but the Brit showed why he is number two in the world and battled through the hold, breaking straight after to secure his well-earned place in the third round.
Simple first set
A love hold for each player got the match off to a quick start. Verdasco found himself with an opportunity on return at 30-30 in the following game but Murray held with a big unreturned serve to take a 2-1 lead.
Verdasco cruised through another service game with huge serving giving him the hold in just over a minute. Another love hold followed, this time for Murray, as he sealed the hold with a perfect drop shot to stay ahead at 3-2.
Verdasco's run of points on serve ended as a double fault from the Spaniard gave Murray a lead on the return at 15-30. Murray fought to erase a game point for his opponent and Verdasco played two loose shots in a row to hand the break to the Brit. Murray then consolidated the break easily as big serves set him up to take control and the second seed took a 5-2 lead.
The Spaniard's powerful groundstrokes took him through another simple hold as he forced Murray to serve for the set. Murray continued to hammer down huge first serves as he sealed the opening set 6-3 in only 30 minutes.
Comeback from Verdasco
Yet another love hold came for Verdasco as he opened the second set, and immediately he found himself with opportunities on the return as he carved out two break points. Murray closed down the net, volleying away the winner to save the first break point and a forehand shank from the Spaniard quickly erased the second to tie them up at deuce. A great second serve followed by an easy forehand putaway gave Murray game point and an error from Verdasco gave the Brit a crucial hold.
The Spaniard came through another impressive hold to quickly put the pressure back on Murray. A scorching forehand winner at full stretch gave Verdasco a lead on return and some more bullying groundstrokes took him to 0-30. A perfectly placed lob set Verdasco up with three break points. The first two were saved as big first serves got Murray out of trouble but another huge forehand winner down the line gave Verdasco the break and a 3-1 lead. The Spaniard flew through another service game, dominating with his forehand and serve to consolidate his lead.
Murray got back on track with a quick love hold keeping him in touch at 4-2. The Brit earned himself a break point in the next game but a huge serve followed by a couple of unplayable forehands gave Verdasco a game point. Verdasco's risky tactic of going for massive serves every time brought another double fault to erase the game point and another came and went with a loose forehand from the Spaniard. Murray stayed patient and waited for the error from Verdasco to bring up a second break point and some excellent defensive play gave Murray the break back.
The pressure was on the Brit's serve again as Verdasco pushed for another couple of break points. The Spaniard went for a huge return and missed to erase the first but an excellent volley sealed the second break point as he regained the lead that would allow him to serve for the set. The breaks continued as Murray pounced, not allowing Verdasco a look at a set point as he stole back the break.
The run of breaks ended as Murray raced through a love hold to level the pair at 5-5 and another hold of serve for each man took them into a second set tiebreak. Verdasco got off to a good start with a big serve followed by an equally massive forehand giving him the first point of the breaker. Murray took his first point on serve but an error on the second gave the Spaniard the mini-break and a 2-1 lead. Back to back brutal forehand winners took Verdasco to a 4-1 lead and Murray added opponents total with a double fault. Murray held another point on serve but a great volley from Verdasco gave him three four set points. A loose shot from the Spaniard gave Murray one of the mini-breaks back and the Brit came through his next two service points to keep hope alive at 6-5. The hope slipped away as Murray netted a backhand to give Verdasco the set on his fourth set point.
Fighting for victory
Murray got the final set underway with a quick hold of serve. A double fault and a forehand shank from Verdasco gifted the Brit with two break points to take the early lead. The Spaniard saved the first but another error into the net gave Murray the break for a 2-0 lead. Verdasco showed that he has just as much power on the backhand as he does on the forehand as he crunched a punishing crosscourt winner. A bad miss from Murray then gave Verdasco a break point. It was saved with a big first serve but more unplayable groundstrokes from Verdasco gave him another and this time the Spaniard took advantage, taking the break back with a perfectly placed forehand winner.
The Brit was threatening on return again as a return winner gave him two break points. A huge serve and a volley winner got Verdasco out of trouble and the Spaniard held on to tie the pair up at 2-2. Murray was in danger again as Verdasco pushed him from 30-0 to 30-30 but Murray stayed solid to hold on.
The world number forty-six raced through a love hold to quickly put the pressure back on Murray. The Brit was made to fight again on serve but held on to stay ahead at 4-3. Murray earned a couple of break points in the next game that would have allowed him to serve for the match, but Verdasco quickly refocused to claim the next two points and take them to deuce, Another opportunity to break was quickly dealt with as Verdasco hammered in a huge serve and the Spaniard eventually held on in a crucial game to keep hope alive.
An impressive love hold from Murray forced Verdasco to serve to stay in the match. The Spaniard emulated Murray as he held clinically while under pressure to take the pair to 5-5. Bullying forehands from Verdasco allowed him to reel off four straight points on the Murray serve as he earned himself two break points. The second seed let out a roar as he battled from back from the brink and got the crucial late hold.
A deep return from Murray gave him a lead on the return as Verdasco served to stay in the match for the second time. A double fault left the Spaniard in a 0-30 hole and Murray wasn't letting the advantage slip as he stayed patient to take the next point and sealed the win with world class defending giving him his place in the third round.