Miami: Murray d. Gasquet

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MIAMI, Fla.—It was a day of wild and wooly tennis on Key Biscayne, during which a major assumption about the game took it on the chin. You’d think the semifinalists in a Masters 1000 tournament would be the kind to tend to their service games and punch a ticket to the final by scoring an odd break here and there. That just wasn’t the case today.

The first match of the day, David Ferrer’s win over Tommy Haas, featured 10 breaks, and it became apparent early in the second match that No. 2 seed Andy Murray and Richard Gasquet weren’t about to let the opening act show them up. Murray ultimately prevailed in their own festival of breaks,  6-7 (3), 6-1, 6-2.

Gasquet started the match firing on all cylinders — his much celebrated one-handed backhand quickly accounted for four winners (three down-the-line and one cross-court) in the first game. He insolently broke Murray in the next game and in the blink of an eye it was 3-0.

But Murray broke back in the fifth game, then broke Gasquet again and served for the first set at 5-4. But at 30-40 in the next game, Murray double-faulted to hand back the break. The sloppy play, infecting both men by now, was a harbinger of things to come.

The men served their way into the tiebreaker, in which a semblance of order was oddly restored. Gasquet recorded the first mini-break, when he induced Murray to make a backhand error in a rally that left the Frenchman with a 2-1 lead and two serves to come. After six straight holds, Murray surrendered the set when he ended a long rally with a flub of one of the safest shots in his repertoire — the cross-court backhand.

At some point in the tiebreaker, though, Gasquet must have injured his right foot or ankle. For his game quickly degenerated in the second set, and he punctuated errors with unhappy gestures aimed at the foot that was failing him. Once it even looked like he was preparing to go all Mikhail Youzhny on the poor foot with his racquet before he thought better of it and let his arm drop to his side.

Leading 2-1 in the second set, Murray forced his way to 15-40 on Gasquet’s serve, and broke at the first opportunity with a running forehand that skipped off the net cord. Gasquet wouldn’t win another game in the set, and he called for the trainer after Murray served it out.

But if Gasquet was hurt, Murray was ragged. He broke Gasquet again in the first game of the third set —  it brought his winning toll to seven of the eight games played since the tiebreaker —  but he produced a sloppy game that ended abruptly with a Murray double fault.

The men were quickly closing on the 10 break mark set earlier in the day. Perhaps inspired by that opportunity, Gasquet surrendered another break (the ninth of the match) that left Murray up, 2-1. Tired of breaking each other, the players exchanged holds for three games until Murray scored the final break of the match to go up 5-2. He finished Gasquet off with a serve that pulled Gasquet way off the court on his forehand side, the subsequent return falling feebly into the net.

Stat of the match: Although there were 10 breaks of serve in this match, there were only 11 break points.

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