by Kevin Craig
French wild card Mathias Bourgue gave Andy Murray another scare at the French Open on Wednesday as he forced the two-time major champion to five sets. Murray, who had to come back from two sets to love down to beat Radek Stepanek in the first round, had to fight back from a two sets to one hole in the second round, eventually earning the 6-2, 2-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 win.
The No. 2 seeded Murray was not only battling the spirited wild card, but also the French faithful on Court Philippe-Chatrier who gave their full support to Bourgue throughout the match as he gave the crowd much more to cheer for than anticipated.
The match began as most would have expected as Murray raced out to a 6-2, 2-0 lead, but that was where the match turned on its head as Bourgue was able to roll off a six-game win streak, taking the set and leveling the match at one set all.
The Frenchman was able to battle back thanks to a dip in concentration for Murray that led to him making too many unforced errors. “It wasn’t like I was not there mentally, but I just couldn’t find the court,” said Murray.
Bourgue, a 22 year-old who is currently ranked No. 164 in the world, continued his hot streak into the third set and outplayed Murray, utilizing a variety of shots to get the job done.
The sense was present throughout the match that Murray would be able to battle back and find a way to pull out the win, like he has shown so many times before throughout his career. That was the case as Murray was able to begin controlling his shots more in the fourth set, limiting his unforced error count to just three in the set and finding a way to assert himself on the court.
The fifth set was more of the same as the much more experienced Murray continued his roll in the fifth set, attacking the youth and inexperience of Bourgue to earn two breaks and close out the match.
Murray highly praised the young Frenchman for his performance on Wednesday, but clearly stated his disappointment with his own level of play. “Today certainly wasn’t easy. I lost my way on the court today for quite a while…You can’t continue playing matches like that and then expect to win the tournament” said Murray.
The Brit will take on big serving Ivo Karlovic in the third round. Karlovic had a scare himself in the second round, as he was forced to play 22 games in the fifth set of his matchup with Australian Jordan Thompson, eventually pulling out the 6-7(2), 6-3, 7-6(3), 6-7(4), 12-10 win.
Another Frenchman in action on Wednesday was on the opposite end of the potential upset bid as Gilles Simon battled back from two sets to love down to beat Argentine Guido Pella, 4-6, 1-6, 7-5, 7-6(4), 6-4.
Pella, who is having a career year after having reached his career his career high ranking of No. 39 in March, raced out two a two sets lead and looked to be in complete control of the match. After going up a break in the third set and having a 3-1 lead, Pella was just three games away from his first third round appearance at a major, but the battle tested Simon needed to give his French faithful something to cheer for.
After going down 3-1, Simon won six of the next eight games, breaking Pella back to take the third set and keep the match alive.
Pella’s upset bid was far from over, though, as he broke in the first game of the fourth set and held a 4-2 lead before Simon was once again able to break late in the set to get back on serve, eventually forcing a tiebreak. The Argentine’s hopes looked to be crushed in that fourth set tiebreak as Simon raced out to a 5-0 lead and eventually won 7-4 to force a deciding fifth set.
The battle continued into the fifth set as each player was forced to battle in their service games, including at 2-2 where Simon had two break points and took advantage of the second one to begin his closing out of the match.
When the Frenchman served for it at 5-4, Pella showed just how much of a battler he is. A 22-point game ensued and Pella had a look at three break points, but Simon was too good and came up clutch as he saved all of them and finished off the comeback win to the delight of the Parisian crowd.
Simon’s epic win sets up a battle in the third round with Viktor Troicki.