• French Open, Day Seven

Murray never more dangerous than when written off

ESPN staff
June 2, 2012
Andy Murray beat Santiago Giraldo in straight sets on Saturday © Getty Images

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On the Diamond Jubilee weekend, Andy Murray put his "drama queen" tendencies behind him to progress regally into the fourth round of the French Open with a straight-sets win against Santiago Giraldo.

Murray was clearly irked by former Wimbledon champion Virginia Wade's comments in the wake of his stuttering victory over Jarkko Nieminen on Thursday - a match in which he struggled with back spasms.

His team urged him to pull out of the tournament after he tottered around tentatively during a nightmare first set against Nieminen, but Murray shunned their advice and, by the end of the contest, was moving well enough to ensure his progression.

On the evidence of his performance against Giraldo, it looked like the right decision. The one aspect of his game you'd have expected to be particularly shaky given his niggles - the serve - was looking as fearsome as it ever has, thundering down with power and accuracy. In the second set he won a game with four successive aces - and went on to win 22 consecutive points on serve.

There were plenty of erudite pundits who advised Murray to let his back rest ahead of Wimbledon: Jim Courier and Boris Becker among them. Their advice now looks both ill-judged and premature; comments to attract headlines rather than ones that weighed up both sides of the argument and listened to Murray, who was adamant that the back spasms he suffered against Nieminen were not related to the back problem he has been battling since last year.

Still, even though the advice was ignored, it probably helped Murray: there's the sense that he seems to take himself to the next level when he comes under fire - and that feeling of anger perhaps spurred him to play in a more aggressive manner.

The subtext to Courier and Becker's comments was that he had little chance of disrupting the established order at this tournament - in other words he was being written off. The critics had Murray's best interests at heart, no-one disputes that - and they did manage to come to his aid, although not in the way they intended.

Murray acknowledged his taste for adversity when, after Nieminen, he said: "There's lots of stories of guys winning tournaments when they've been in big losing positions, match points down, guys serving for matches a couple of breaks up and then suddenly they'll come back and win and then they'll start to relax into the tournament a little bit."

Let's not forget that his best performance at the French Open, a semi-final last year, came after he had rolled his ankle in the early rounds. So he is a man happiest when battling the odds and, having overcome an injury scare and with Ferrer, Nadal and Djokovic probably all to come, it doesn't come any more daunting.

He won't shirk the challenge.

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