French Open | Murray shows improved form
To the relief of his fans, the Andy Murray which arrived on court for his first match at the French Open, was the player more like the one who went all the way to the final last year.
I started to move a bit better towards the end. I was hitting the ball better when I was defending. That's something the last few weeks I haven't done so well and didn't start off the match doing particularly well. Andy Murray
Gone was the lethargic and lost look of the last few weeks, no doubt kicked out of his system by Ivan Lendl, his coach, who arrived a week ago to take command of what looked like a lost cause.
Murray defeated Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov, ranked 73, 6-4 4-6 6-2 6-0 and apart from a loose game in the second set which handed his opponent a chance to get a foothold in the match, he turned up the heat to sweep through the next two sets in a style more in keeping of the world number one.
There was on shot which brought the house down in admiration, which seemingly sparked him into life. Chasing a lob which by all accounts should have beaten any other player, was successfully retrieved. He hooked it back over his shoulders for his opponent to duly net his smash.
“It was a good get,” said Murray. “When the lob went up, I thought that I wouldn’t be able to reach it, but I did. I think he made a couple of simple errors after that. I got the break, and then obviously didn’t look back from there.
“It definitely got better as it went on. I started to move a bit better towards the end. I was hitting the ball better when I was defending. That’s something the last few weeks I haven’t done so well and didn’t start off the match doing particularly well.
“But once I was getting a little bit more on my ball when I was defending, there weren’t too many openings for him in the points. It was a decent start, considering obviously how I played in the build-up.”
Murray now faces Slovakia’s Martin Klizan, following his bad-tempered 7-6(4) 6-3 4-6 0-6 6-4 victory over French wildcard Laurent Lokoli out on Court 14.
The players had to virtually be physically parted by the umpire as the exchanges became more and more heated as Klizan took exception to Lokoli exaggerating his calf injury and when the Slovak offered his hand at the end of the match, he was rebuffed by the Frenchman who waved him away disdainfully.
“For me, when you’re on a tennis court, you have to be respectful,” said Lokoli. “What he did, it’s not respectful. I always respect my opponent. It’s five set, almost four hours. I was angry. He is very good player. And after there is the man and what he did.”
Klizan offered no comment when asled about the incident and simply said of his refusal to shake hands: “It was his decision. I accept it.” Now it was more important for him to recover for his match against Murray.
He said: “I’m still playing doubles today after playing singles for four hours. Great scheduling, especially when I’m coming back from injury, so it’s very tough now. I’ll do the best to recover and be ready for the next match.”
Joining Murray and Aljaz Bedene, who won his match on Monday, is Kyle Edmund who delivered a powerful display to beat Gastao Elias of Portugal 6-3 6-2 7-5 in just under two hours, to reach the second round for a third successive year.
The 22-year-old British No2, was pleased at his achievement but realises he has still a long way to go. “I’m happy but it’s only first round. It’s not like I have made semis or finals for three years in a row.
“So it’s good that each year I’ve definitely got better. My first five-set win, first grand slam match came here. I remember it was very exciting. Last year was a great match against Basilashvili in four sets.
“This year I’ve won in three sets. So it’s good progression. I just felt I was the better player today and deserved the win.”
In contrast Alexander Zverev declared “I played absolute s**t” as he crashed out in his opening round in what was a surprising result for the newest top-ten player who most people expected to be in contention for the title itself.
His match had been suspended overnight with the two players, Zverev and his opponent the experienced Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, splitting sets. On resumption, the Spanish veteran took control to romp through 6-4 3-6 6-4 6-2.
Zverev’s frustration at his inability to get involved in the match was clear as he smashed his racket in the fourth set and stormed off the court straight into the press room, where after delivering his verdict on his play, he went on: “You sometimes play bad. This is our sport. There is no regrets. In Rome I played fantastic, I won the tournament. Here I played bad, I lost first round. That’s the way it goes.
“The world doesn’t stop now. I’m still number four in the race to London and I’m still doing okay this year. I won three tournaments so far. Of course I should be concerned the way I played, but it’s nothing to be tragic about.
“I will definitely take a few days off. It’s been a rough few weeks for me, in a good way obviously, but physically very, very tiring. Then I’ll prepare myself the best I can for grass.”
Another youngster who could well be contending for the title, could well be Nick Kyrgios who is showing more maturity this year.
The Australian 22-year-old beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3 7-6(4) 6-3 showing no signs of the shoulder and hip injuries which had plagued him in previous weeks, but prophesies Rafa Nadal will win his tenth Roland Garros drown.
“I think Rafa on clay, his dominance right now is as big as it’s ever been,” he asserted. “I think Thiem played an unbelievable match in Rome to beat him. Then look what happened the next round, he’s completely gone, physically and mentally. I thought he was going to beat Djokovic, to be honest. Then he won one game.
“Nadal, I don’t think he’s worried at all about anyone in this tournament, to be fair. Best of five, it suits him. He knows he’s not going to lose. Let’s be realistic.
“Djokovic, Murray, number one in the world, he’s got like three times as many points as anyone. I can’t really see the changing of the guard happening any time soon because of one tournament. Unbelievable week, but I think the young ones have a way to go.”
Meanwhile, qualifier Maxime Hamou has been banned from the grounds for inappropriate behavior towards a female reporter following his 6-3 6-2 6-4 loss to Pablo Cuevas. His attempt to kiss Eurosport’s reporter Maly Thomas has resulted in the FFT pulling his accreditation and setting up an investigation into the incident which was filmed.