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Tired Murray out – but not down – after Paris defeat


 

Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:50

Despite falling to a third round defeat to Radek Stepanek at the BNP Paribas Masters 1000, Andy Murray was in an upbeat mood as his thoughts turn to London and the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

The world No.4, playing just 16 hours after beating James Blake in the small hours of Thursday morning, went down 1-6 6-3 6-4 to the Czech world No.14.

But the Scot made light of the defeat in the wake of his largely satisfactory preparations for the season finale, particularly winning in Valencia following his six-week layoff with a wrist injury.

“Obviously to win a tournament after that long out was great,” said Murray. “I wanted to try and play as many matches as possible.

“I would have signed up for playing seven matches and winning six of them before these couple of tournaments, and it was kind of just what I needed before London.”

There was little to suggest that Murray would exit quite so early after coasting through the first set against the No.13 seed.

But the Scot’s demeanour changed in the second as tiredness and frustration began to creep into his game, not helped by the interruption of a non-professional photographer taking shots midpoint early on in the set.

Having leveled the match, Stepanek began to pile on the pressure and an early break carried him to a 5-2 lead. Murray mounted a brief fightback, but the Czech sealed the win at the second time of asking.

Afterwards, Murray admitted that his late night finish against Blake had played a part in the defeat.

“It’s obviously limited recovery after a long match.” Murray said. “It’s 4am by the time you get to bed, so it’s not perfect preparation for a match. But you still come out and you try and give it your best shot.”

But while a short night’s sleep was far from ideal preparation for his third round match, a decent break ahead of the World Tour Finals suits the Scot just fine.

“I get nine days’ rest to get rid of all the niggles and stiffness. I’ll be feeling good going in there, I’m sure, a lot better than I would have been if I had gone out early both weeks.”

Elsewhere, Rafael Nadal posted another hard-fought win to book his place in the quarter-finals, overcoming compatriot Tommy Robredo 6-3 3-6 7-5.

The world No.2, who saved five match points before taming Nicolas Almagro in the previous round, needed two hours and 20 minutes to shrug off a brave challenge from Robredo.

“I didn’t play my best but I played better than yesterday and managed to play big rallies without making mistakes,” Nadal said. “So that’s positive.”

Robredo had served for the match at 5-4 in the third set before Nadal stormed back to reach the last eight – and stay in contention for the year-end world No.1 spot.

Roger Federer’s shock exit in the French capital on Wednesday means Nadal stands an outside chance of toppling the Swiss in London.

First, the Spaniard must beat defending champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who swept aside fellow Frenchman Gilles Simon 6-2 6-3 and who must win in Paris to qualify for the World Tour Finals.

“The conditions will be good for him with a fast court and the crowd on his side,” Nadal said. “He will be the favourite but I’ll do my best.”

Tsonga is joined in the last eight by compatriot Gael Monfils, who posted a 6-4 6-3 win over Julien Benneteau, meaning that France has two representatives in the quarter-finals for the first time since 1992.

Novak Djokovic ended home hopes of a third Frenchman joining the last eight with a 6-2 6-2 victory over Arnaud Clement.

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