Wimbledon 2017: Murray battles past Fognini in four set classic

In just over a weeks time we’ll know if Andy Murray’s dramatic four set victory over the mercurial Fabio Fognini was merely just a blip or a sign that his quest to claim a second successive Wimbledon title was beginning to fade.

The world number one needed to dig mightily deep to record a 6-2 4-6 6-1 7-5 victory in a Friday night classic, which lasted two hours and 39 on Centre Court.

At times, Murray was at the mercy of the talented Italian, who had six set points in the fourth set before squandering a 5-2 lead.

In the end, it was Murray’s resolve and grit which saw him break through the finishing line to set up a fourth-round meeting with Frenchman Benoît Paire on Monday.

Murray tested for the first time

Even so, it should be noted that, despite some inspired tennis from Fognini, Murray struggled to hurt the Italian in the baseline rallies – an area where the Brit usually excels.

For most of the fourth set Murray appeared passive and a little sluggish, by his extremely high standards, as he struggled with the timing of his returns and his often-dependable backhand.

Take nothing away from Fognini, though, a player renowned for his clay-court prowess but who has rarely been considered a threat on the grass at SW19.

The Italian played some breath-taking tennis at times, keeping Murray off guard some deft drop shots and extreme variety of pace and spin from the back of the court.

If it wasn’t for Fognini’s temperamental dementor, which saw him challenge a ball on set point when he had no challenges remaining, he could have caused the upset of the tournament so far.

Instead, Murray lives to fight another day and will now have two days to recharge his batteries ahead of the pivotal second week.

Grass court gives Murray the edge

Fognini had beaten Murray in their previous meeting on clay at the Rome Masters earlier this year. However, few would have expected a repeat of that result on the zippier grass at SW19.

The Italian has never been past the third round at the All England Club and, after holding his opening two service games, he began to fall away in the opening set.

From 2-2, Murray reeled off the next four games, breaking Fognini twice to take the first set.

Fognini shows his class

Even so, Fognini is a streaky player with heaps of ability and, after the pair traded breaks at the start of the second set, the Italian began to take control.

Murray’s first serve percentage dropped to an alarming 43 per cent, while Fognini, who is far from the tallest player on the tour at 5 ft 10, started to hold his service games with relative ease.

After dropping the second set, Murray came out reenergised at the start of the third, letting out a huge “come on” after holding serve in the opening game.

On the other side of the net, Fognini became distracted by what appeared to be a foot injury and, as he contemplated whether or not to call for the trainer, Murray raced into a two-sets-to-one lead.

However, in the fourth set there was no indication that the Italian was in any sort of physical trouble.

Fognini dominated from the baseline, effortlessly ripping winners with his languid, but effective groundstrokes.

At 5-2, a fifth set seemed inevitable, however due to a combination of Fognini’s nativity and Murray’s refusal give in, a decider wasn’t required.