PARIS (Reuters) - Andy Murray avoided suffering his earliest grand slam defeat for eight years by clawing his way into the French Open third round with a nerve-jangling win over swashbuckling French wildcard Mathias Bourgue on Wednesday.
After surviving a five-set thriller for the second day running, the Scot poked a finger at his thumping heart to show just what the 6-2 2-6 4-6 6-2 6-3 triumph meant to him.
“You can’t play too many matches like this if you want to go far in this tournament. I hope to win the next one a little bit faster,” Murray, who will next face Ivo Karlovic, said after spending more than seven hours on court for his two wins.
Murray appeared to be heading for an easy win when he was a set and 2-0 up against the 164th-ranked challenger who had never played a Tour-level match before this week.
However, the contest between the world’s second best player and a grand slam debutant turned into an nail-biting battle as Murray endured a mid-match meltdown.
Bourgue won eight games in a row, including 16 successive points, by torturing his more celebrated rival with a mix of devilish dropshots, flying forehands and venomous volleys.
The 22-year-old kept up his antics in the third set and, backed by a 15,000-strong chorus of “Bour-gue, Bour-gue, Bour- gue”, he had the roaring fans on their feet as he took the set with a blazing backhand winner.
“I was thinking ‘what happened?’ I was leading 6-2 2-0 and from then on he started playing unbelievably and I was finding it very hard to win points, let alone games,” Murray added courtside.
The losing run prompted Murray to swap his sweaty black shirt for a fresh white one and it certainly appeared to lighten his mood as the Briton’s inbuilt survival skills finally kicked in.
After saving three break points in the opening game of the fourth set, which dragged on for 10 minutes, Murray found a way to crack Bourgue’s serve for a 3-1 lead.
He then looked to have settled his frayed nerves as he won eight of the next 10 games to stand four points away from victory.
Bourgue, however, was in no mood to leave Philippe Chatrier Court in a hurry and prolonged Murray’s agony by breaking the twice grand slam champion as he served for the match.
The three hour 34 minute sweat-fest finally ended as the gallant Frenchman swiped a forehand into the net.
Bourgue hit more winners (55 to Murray’s 46), produced fewer unforced errors (44 to Murray’s 45) and won 138 points compared to Murray’s tally of 137 -- yet all he had to take home was a DVD full of memories.
“I’d been waiting for this for a long time, that’s what I play tennis for. I‘m happy even if I lost,” Bourgue said.
“It will remain a great memory.”
Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Toby Davis