Fri. 8-21-15: ATP Cincinnati Fine Swine Spotlight

Murray Seeks 4th Straight Win Over Gasquet
Photo: EPA

Andy Murray pulled a Houdini-like escape act against Grigor Dimitrov in the third round on Thursday night. Gasquet will hope that Murray used all of his magic up as he tries to break a three match losing skid to Murray. Murray has also won four of their last five meetings overall.

(3) Andy Murray vs. (12) Richard Gasquet
Murray may have used every bit of good luck he brought with him to Cincinnati on Thursday night against Grigor Dimitrov. Murray trailed Dimitrov by a set and a double break in the second set when things began to turn around. Trailing 4-1, Murray was able to break Dimitrov in the very next game to get one break back. Incredibly, that was just the second break point that Murray had seen all match to that point and he made it count. Dimitrov seemed to feel the pressure after Murray closed to 4-3 as a lengthy eighth game saw four deuces and three break chances on the Dimitrov serve. Murray would capitalize on the third try to even up the set at 4-4. The set would go a tie break where Murray took a mini break lead at 4-2 to the changeover and rolled to a 7-3 scoreline to even the match at one set each.

Momentum seemed squarely on Murray’s shoulders as he broke to open the third set and quickly consolidated that on serve for a 2-0 lead. No one could have forthseen the events from there as Murray dropped the next five games, broken twice by Dimitrov who took a stranglehold on the set at 5-2. On serve, Murray would finally hold again to make it 5-3. Dimitrov perhaps again feeling some pressure quickly fell down 0-40 as Murray pounced on a second break chance to get back on serve at 5-4. Murray would fend off a match point in his next service game to even the set at 5-5 and then scored the decisive break in the next game as he finished Dimitrov off 4-6, 7-6, 7-5.

The match finished just one minute past the three hour mark and left Murray amazed at the outcome saying “I’m not quite sure how I managed to get through it.” Murray went on to say that this is the klnd of win though that can breed confidence for the future,  “If you want to win the big competitions, you’ll have to come through difficult situations.” For the match, Murray won just two points more than Dimitrov (116-114) and was broken five times on 13 break chances. His second serve was again beaten up as Dimitrov won 57 percent of the points. Murray had to put his fair share of second serves in play too with 49 second serves out of his 115 total service points. Yet somehow, he managed to escape with a win and a trip to the quarterfinals.

Richard Gasquet did not have any such adventure in his third round clash against Marin Cilic. Gasquet was not overpowering in the 7-5, 6-3 win, but he came through when it mattered. In the first set, he teetered on being broken three times in his second, third and fourth service games. The fourth was the most stressful as it went to five deuces and saw the Frenchman save his third break point of the set. They would exchange easier holds to a 6-5 Gasquet lead when Cilic wobbled on his serve for the first time. After a very clean first set serving, Cilic offered up three break points in the 12th game with Gasquet converting the third to take the opening set. By all counts, Cilic played the better set, but it was one loose service game that did him in.

The second set looked as if was going to be Cilic’s comeback moment as he nearly broke Gasquet to open. The 12th seed held after fighting off two break points, but would be broken in his next service game as Cilic sprinted out to a 2-1 lead. Once more though, Cilic struggled out of nowhere on serve as he gave Gasquet five looks at break opportunities. Gasquet would take the last opportunity to get back on serve at 2-2. They would exchange service holds until the eighth game where Cilic fell behind quickly 15-40 on serve and was broken a third time in the match. Gasquet closed it out on serve for the win. Gasquet was at his best against Cilic with his ability to fight off break points as he saved six of seven. That is something that will serve him well today against Murray.

Although the pair have met eight times on the court throughout their careers, this will be just the third meeting on a hard court. Twice there has been a walkover due to injury or fatigue when these two have met. The last time coming in their last scheduled meeting at the 2014 Rogers Cup when Gasquet withdrew with an abdominal injury. The two times they have met on a hard court, they split the decision with Murray winning the more recent match-up in three sets in the 2013 Sony Open in Miami. In that meeting, Gasquet took the opener in a tie break before Murray stormed back 6-2, 6-1 to capture the win. Coincidentally, that was the last time that Gasquet made a Masters semifinal.

In winning four of their last five meetings, Murray has dropped at least one set to Gasquet in four of those five matches. The 2010 meeting at the French Open had to be the most disappointing for Gasquet. It was in the opening round where Gasquet zoomed out to a two sets to love lead, only to see Murray dominate him 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 in the final three sets for the win. The next year they would meet at Wimbledon in the fourth round where Murray won in straight sets 7-6, 6-3, 6-2. There were two clay court clashes in 2012 with Gasquet scoring the come-from-behind win at the Rome Masters 6-7, 6-2, 6-2. Murray returned the favor at the French Open again after dropping the opener 6-1, he crushed Gasquet in the next three sets 6-4, 6-1, 6-2. There is a common theme among the head-to-head meetings as you can see. Gasquet starts quick more often than not, but Murray’s endurance and consistency gets the better of him over the course of three or five sets.

There is no question that Gasquet has improved his fitness some the last few years. His five set thriller against Stan Wawrinka in this year’s Wimbledon quarterfinal showed some of that. Still, Murray remains one of the most fit players on tour. However, Gasquet may have the equalizer today as Murray has shown some definite fatigue from last week’s Rogers Cup triumph over Novak Djokovic. Murray has talked about feeling the effects after his opening match against Mardy Fish where he looked shaky at-times. On top of that, he had a later finish last night after exerting a lot of energy to come back against Dimitrov in a three hour match. He’s fit as a fiddle, but he has not done himself any favors the first two matches here in Cincinnati. It’s a relatively quick turnaround as well with this match scheduled to go on court at 3:30 p..m. local time depending on when the Serena Williams match ends before it.

With Murray having logged more miles late last night, it is imperative for Gasquet to jump out early and test exactly what Murray has left in the tank today. That doesn’t necessarily mean getting into a baseline rally war as short aggressive points can force Murray to show his movement or lack thereof just as much. For his columnist, the Gasquet serve is a large key. It is not one that will overpower a return of Murray’s caliber. So, he needs to be precise with placement and get as many first serves in as possible to avoid letting Murray off the hook by seeing a lot of second serves. Gasquet wins right around 55 percent of his second serve points on the season, but Murray chews up second serves to the tune of winning 56 percent off his opponents in 2015. He killed Fish in his opener, winning 74 percent of the second serve points and won half against Dimitrov yesterday.

If Gasquet can avoid the pitfall of the second serve, then the biggest opponent left on court may be himself. Does he have the belief that he can outlast Murray? He has started well against him the last five times they have met, winning the first set three times. He certainly must win the opening set as Murray leads the ATP Tour in winning percentage after winning the opening set. Over the last 52 weeks, Murray has won an astounding 98 percent of his matches when he wins the first set. He is 63-1 in that stretch when winning the opener. Gasquet has done well in his own right at a 96 percent win rate when he wins the first set over the same span with a 28-1 record. Interestingly enough that loss came in Washington, D.C. at the Citi Open to Jack Sock 7-6, 6-7, 4-6. The first set will be huge, but as seen in their previous matches, Murray maintains the belief that he can win even if he falls behind. Gasquet? That is the question. The Finish line always seems farther away for him against Murray even when he is ahead.

Murray wins in three sets


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