The Scotsman could be out of his wits. It was 10 days ago, when he blew away world no.1 Novak Djokovic at Rome and now this. On second and third day, Murray had to deal with a born-again Radek Stepanek, currently ranked 129 in the world before breathing a sigh of relief that was short-lived because on the fourth day, he found another hurdle in a tennis player outside the top 100. No one knows French wild card Mathias Bourgue. But the 22-year old, world no. 164 was able to harry world no.2 Murray for 3 hours 34 minutes before Murray could breathe again. On an otherwise uneventful day, Murray’s suffering remained the only news. Japanese Kei Nishikori, Canada’s Milos Raonic, Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka, Frenchmen Gilles Simon and Richard Gasquet all sailed into the third round in men’s draw. Among women, Romanian Simona Halep, Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska and Czech Petra Kvitova also entered the third round without much hassles.
After battling with the 37-year old Czech warhorse Radek Stepanek over two days, Andy Murray didn’t expect to be stretched excessively by world no.164 and a literally unknown Mathias Bourgue. The French wild card had never played more than three sets in his entire tennis career. But on Wednesday, he enjoyed a huge crowd support at Court Philippe Chatrier and came close to causing the biggest upset of day 4. He met world no.2 Andy Murray, who looked like flirting with an early exit from Roland Garros. Before the 2016 French Open got underway, Murray had the betters’ money on him to win this time round, after a reasonable clay-court performance this season that included victory over world no.1 Novak Djokovic in Italian Open. If he counted the Stepanek duel as the one-off thing, he was grossly mistaken. Against Bourgue, Murray began well, won the first set 6-2 and gave an impression that he would run through Bourgue’s defenses. But the Frenchman had nothing to lose as he bounced back menacingly. After Murray took an early 2-0 lead in the second set, Bourgue broke him thrice in succession to take the second set 6-2. Those 2 were the only points Murray could win in the set. It was a great payback by Bourgue.
If Murray thought he could get over the aberration, he was proved wrong again. Bourgue broke him in the opening game of the third set and a story seemed to be developing at Philippe Chatrier. Bourgue came close to breaking Murray in the seventh game but Murray survived. However, being down one break, the Scot still had the dice loaded against him. Bourgue didn’t have to do much except keep holding his serve. He did that and won at 6-4 to lead two sets to one. Now it was do-or-die for Murray, who didn’t have any respite from the roaring crowd either, as they all egged on the young Frenchman.
Before the start of the fourth set, Murray changed his shirt, changed his hat but that didn’t help as he trailed 0-30 on his own serve in the opening game. Then the Scot was down two break points as the roaring crescendo reached a high decibel level. Somehow Murray held his nerve and managed a deuce only to lose another point. With the third break point against him, Murray worked hard in winning the next three points and held his serve. After two more service holds from either end, Murray found his touch and broke Bourgue to lead 3-1. From this point, Bourgue didn’t have any more chances in the set as Murray leveled the set scores to 2-2. In the final set, Murray found the break in the fourth game and led 3-1 and broke the Frenchman once more to lead 5-1. The Bourgue story looked like ending but as a parting shot, the young man broke once more to narrow the deficit in the final set to 6-3. Murray went through to third round with a scary 6-2, 2-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 win. He now has a day’s rest on Thursday, before meeting the big-serving Croat Ivo Karlovic on Friday.
In other matches of Day 4, no.5 seed Japanese Kei Nishikori defeated Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov 6-3, 6-3, 6-3; Canada’s no.8 seed Milos Raonic beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 6-1, 7-6, 6-1; Switzerland’s no.3 seed Stan Wawrinka defeated Japan’s Taro Daniel 7-6, 6-3, 6-4; France’s no. 16 seed Gilles Simon defeated Argentina’s Guido Pela 4-6, 1-6, 7-5, 7-6, 6-4; Australia’s Nick Kyrgios outplayed Dutch lucky loser Igor Sijsling 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 and another Frenchman Richard Gasquet defeated US wildcard Bjorn Fratangelo 6-1, 7-6, 6-3. In women’s draw, Romanian no.6 seed Simona Halep defeated Kazakh Zarin Diyas 7-6, 6-2; Spain’s no.4 seed Garbine Muguruza beat French wild card Myrtille Georges 6-2, 6-0; Poland’s no.2 seed Agnieszka Radwanska beat France’s Caroline Garcia 6-2, 6-4 and Czech no.10 seed Petra Kvitova defeated Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-Wei 6-4, 6-1.