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Murray survives Fognini test

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Originally published on 07/07/17 00:00

The world No.1 trailed the inimitable Italian 2-5 in the fourth set but spurred on by a partisan crowd, he reeled off five games in succession – saving five set-points in the process – to stun his rival and take his place in the second week of Wimbledon for an 11th time.  

Fognini showed glimpses of why he was able to thrash Murray at the Rome Masters in May. In the early exchanges he stayed tight to the baseline and cracked his groundstrokes with unerring accuracy however his level of play quickly deteriorated.

In the sixth game of the opener, Fognini made a catalogue of unforced-errors to meekly surrender his serve. Worse was to follow, though, as the fiery Italian coughed up three double-faults to concede the first set with a whimper.

Murray had served impressively in the first set but he struggled behind his delivery in the next. Re-engaged and focused, Fognini began slapping winners with pinpoint precision and was soon back in contention.

The third set had the potential to be a blockbuster however Fognini’s level dipped dramatically once again and he managed to win just a single game.

Fognini came roaring back in the fourth set and he was in complete command of the baseline rallies. With a 5-2 lead and 15-40 on his opponent’s serve, the Italian looked destined to force a decider, however, he failed to make the most of his chances and Murray stayed involved.

The Italian had five set-points in total, but he was unable to convert any and Murray soon had the momentum and the will of the crowd on his side. The Scot won five games on the bounce to complete a dramatic turnaround and book a fourth round showdown with Benoit Paire.

“I didn't feel like I played my best tennis, but I won and I got through it. That's a really positive thing,” said Murray. “Now I've got two days to work on some things, rest up a little bit, and get used to the conditions that we're playing in now. I'm obviously pleased to be in the second week. Anything can happen from here.”

Rafael Nadal secured his tenth win in a row at Grand Slam level as he defeated Karen Khachanov 6-1 6-4 7-6(3) to reach the last sixteen.

The Spaniard was in menacing form in the first two sets as he bullied his younger rival with his famous forehand. Khachanov offered some resistance in the third set but he was unable to prevent his opponent marching through to next round.

Khachanov, a young player who has made significant progress in the last 12 months, appeared overawed in the early stages of his first ever meeting with the 15-time major winner. The Russian may have been nervous, but Nadal was rampant in the first two sets.

The third set was more competitive as Khachanov’s began to grow in confidence and he carved open a set-point opportunity on his opponent’s serve. Nadal denied the Russian with a delicate dropshot and then completed the job in a tiebreak.

“I played fantastic,” beamed Nadal. “I played some good shots with the forehand, backhand and I think my serve worked well. I’m happy about almost everything but my second serve was a little bit too short in the third set. Everything apart from that, was very good.”

Nadal will take on Gilles Muller on Monday, who has reached the second week for the first time. The Luxembourger thumped 19 aces as he defeated Aljaz Bedene 7-6(4) 7-5 6-4.

After the match Bedene said: “I gave my best until the end but unfortunately it didn’t work out today. He has a unique style, a lefty serve and a great slice but I just didn’t find my rhythm. The first set was quite close, and even though I lost it in a tiebreak, I still believed I could win.”

Marin Cilic’s excellent grass-court form continued as he defeated Steve Johnson 6-4 7-6(3) 6-4 to reach the last sixteen once again.

The Croatian, who reached the final of the Aegon Championships last month, was rarely troubled by the big-serving American. “It was a really good match and Steve also played quite well today,” said Cilic. “He started to play a little better in the beginning of the third set and had a break, but I managed to raise my game and took my chances.

“I’m feeling very confident, playing very well. That’s three matches I have won in straight sets so that’s extremely good for my confidence.”

Cilic would have expected to play Kei Nishikori in the last sixteen, but his next opponent will be Roberto Bautista Agut. The hard-working Spaniard defeated the Japanese 6-4 7-6(3) 3-6 6-3 in a bruising encounter.

It was an afternoon of frustration for Nishikori, who converted just two of 11 break-point opportunities. "I couldn't maintain my level high enough to beat Bautista today," admitted the No.9 seed. 

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