A dramatic day’s events at the French Open on Sunday saw Andy Murray scrape into the fourth round after a five set marathon win against Germany’s Phillip Kohlschreiber (3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 12-10), while seventeen time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer crashed out against Latvian Ernests Gulbis (7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (3-7), 2-6, 6-4, 3-6).
Murray’s encounter on Court Suzanne Lenglen didn’t – on paper at least – raise any obvious concerns as the seventh seed continued his steady recovery from back surgery at the end of 2013. But Kohlschreiber – seeded 28th at Rolland Garros – is and was a known banana skin with a potent forehand. Two breaks of serve in the opening six games set the tone for the match but it was the German who broke for a second time in the seventh game to serve out the set, winning it 6-3.
Murray fought back in the second however and in breaking twice – despite losing one of the breaks – won it 6-3. Playing beautiful tennis, Murray and Kohlschreiber provided glittering value for money for the spectators – Murray playing a delicate side-spin forehand down the tram line while Kohlschreiber baffling the Scot with a sneaky cross-court dropshot.
Set three saw Murray again secure a double break and this time, he made it count; winning it 6-3. Two sets to one in the lead and a break following an easy hold, anyone would have forgiven Murray for being confident. But Kohlschreiber wasn’t going to go away quietly; and he didn’t. Three successive breaks saw the set poised at 4-3 Murray. The German resolutely held before taking advantage of some sloppy Murray in the eighth game to break once more; this time Kohlschreiber seemed in the acendency. The fourth set went to the twenty-eighth seed and forced a decider.
As was customary throughout, the pair exchanged breaks and as such the final set was going by serve; and though it didn’t have an Isner v Mahut look about it, finding another break of serve when it mattered most, seemed ironically evasive. Much to the annoyance of the locals, play was suspended due to bad light. The pair would have to return on Sunday afternoon, but only once Thomas Berdych had progressed to the quarter finals with his victory over John Isner.
9-9 and Murray mustered up a match point at A-40, but Kohlschreiber fought back with a mighty serve and an inch-perfect overhead to stay in the match. He then held with some aggressive groundstrokes to which Murray could not repsond.
The crucial break came at 10-11 on the Kohlschreiber serve. Murray put increasing pressure on the German’s service and managed to sneak ahead to a 15-40 lead. A missed first serve from Kohlschreiber prompted Murray to step in on the second serve. Briskly swatting away the serve like a fly, Murray scraped a tight contest and progressed to the fourth round.
For Roger Federer, it was a defeat that would no doubt raise questions about his future in the sport – after failing to reach the quarter final stage for the first time since 2004. He was up against Latvian Ernests Gulbis, seeded eighteenth, and like Murray had to go five sets.
It was Gulbis who took an early break in the sixth game. But a typical unpredictable and scrappy play relinquished this break and Federer ensured the first set was back on serve. The Swiss star’s skill and sumptuous class showed as they locked themselves in a first set tie break. Federer took it 7-6 (7-5) with a lovely top-spin passing shot. Gulbis looked out of sort and especially so when Federer broke in the second to move 5-3 ahead. The Lativan wouldn’t let go and stubbornly broke back, before holding to prolong the set. Another tie break and impressively it was Gulbis who took it 7-6 (7-3). Federer left to rue a simple missed smash which would have no doubt given him a two set lead.
The third set did not start well at all for Federer – despite the French fans’ unwavering support and chants of “Roger, Roger”. Gulbis broke twice in the set and the errors from Federer’s raquet started to become more and more frequent – accumulating 59 in total for the match. Gulbis forced his way ahead and duly took it 6-2. However, both Roger and the French crowd had something to cheer about and perhaps a glimmer of hope in the fourth set. Leading 5-2, Gulbis’ nerves were evident as was his physical condition as he took a medial timeout. The Latvian broke back once and nearly twice, but Federer held on to force a nerve wracking deciding set.
Gulbis’ nerves – however shredded they seemed in set 4 – were very much intact in the fifth. Breaking again to lead 4-2, he held off the seventeen times Grand Slam champion’s advances and rounded off the match – in which had included sublime shots, a smashed raquet and verbal abuse from the Latvian – in calm and controlled fashion, taking it 6-4. He faces Thomas Berdych in the quarter finals now while Federer must now focus on recovering at Wimbledon
Image source: © http://www.zimbio.com