x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Murray getting back to his best

Rafael Nadal also safely through in French Open.

Andy Murray seems to have overcome his back problems as he defeated Colombian Santiago Giraldo at Roland Garros yesterday.
Andy Murray seems to have overcome his back problems as he defeated Colombian Santiago Giraldo at Roland Garros yesterday.

Andy Murray is optimistic his back problems will continue to ease after putting the drama of Thursday behind him with an impressive straight-sets win over Santiago Giraldo in the third round of the French Open.

The odds on the world No 4 still being in the tournament today looked slim when he struggled to such an extent against Jarkko Nieminen in round two that for much of the first set he was barely able to move.

A back spasm, unrelated to the ongoing problem that has troubled the Briton since the end of last year, had struck on Thursday morning and it was only a combination of on-court treatment and some charitable play from Nieminen that enabled him to go through.

Colombian Giraldo fought for all he was worth, but Murray's game was solid in every department, and one break in each set proved good enough for a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory.

Murray said: "I felt like I moved pretty well today. When you're playing in slams, I just think each day you need to take as it comes. And I felt much better than I did the other day. I felt better than I did yesterday.

"So I'm hoping that tomorrow I'll feel good again, and that's all you've got to do is each day just be a little bit better."

Murray will be aware that opponents get much tougher from here, with Frenchman Richard Gasquet to come in round four and David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal waiting in the wings.

Murray has been having intensive physiotherapy and manipulation from his personal physio, Andy Ireland, but he opted against a painkilling injection for his match against Giraldo.

He said: "Guys often during tournaments have numbing shots, if they're just trying to get through a match and are deep in a tournament or whatever.

"But I didn't do that. We got a lot of advice, I saw the doctor here and spoke to him as well, and took all the right medication and did all the right treatments."

Murray's troubles caused an off-court storm after former Wimbledon champion Virginia Wade, now a television commentator, called him a drama queen, a charge he firmly refuted.

Asked whether Wade had been in touch, Murray said: "No, and I don't expect her to be either. That sort of stuff happens all the time."

It was immediately obvious that Murray was in much better shape, the Brit beginning the match against world No 50 Giraldo with an ace.

The Colombian won only three games when they last met in Barcelona a few weeks ago and Murray was rewarded with the first break in the sixth game when he piled the pressure on.

The second set took on a similar pattern, this time the break coming in the fifth game, although Murray did have to save his only break point of the match when he served it out, Giraldo netting a backhand.

The Colombian began to go for broke in the third set, and often it worked, his forehand proving particularly dangerous, but it remained simply a matter of time until Murray broke again, which he did in the seventh game before taking his second match point with a backhand winner.

Assessing his performance, Murray said: "Once I started to get into the match and got ahead of him, I started hitting the ball well and started dictating all the points.

"Then, in the third set, he just started going for huge shots and it was a bit frustrating, because it was pretty low-percentage tennis, but I was getting some break-point chances, getting into the games and couldn't quite break through."

Rafa Nadal continued his untroubled progress towards a seventh French Open title with a 6-1, 6-3, 6-4 defeat of Argentine qualifier Eduardo Schwank to reach the last 16.

Second seed Nadal, who dropped only nine games in his first two rounds at Roland Garros, was never under threat from the doubles specialist.

Elsewhere, 12th seed Nicolas Almagro defeated Leonardo Mayer 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 and eighth-seeded Janko Tipsarevic saw off local hope Julien Benneteau 6-3, 7-5, 6-4. Another Frenchman to bow out was Paul-Henri Mathieu, who went down in five sets to Marcel Granollers.