With the light failing on Suzanne Lenglen court, Andy Murray fought back from two sets down against Serbian no.15 seed Victor Troicki to take the match into a final set. The score is tied at two sets all, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, so Murray and Troicki will be back for a one-set shootout on Tuesday to see who progresses to a quarter-final against Juan Ignacio Chela.
Andy Murray is a mood player, and in the early part of the match, that mood could only be described as gloomy. Clearly concerned about his painful ankle, he was down 5-0 in no time. Then, like the weather in Paris on Monday, the clouds suddenly lifted in the Scot's mind, and he began letting loose with his trademark forehand to drag himself back into the set.
Still, the Serb served at 5-4, and showed guts and acumen to see the game out. Remembering he had a drop shot that could test Murray's ankle, he also serve-and-volleyed, mixing things up enough to confuse the no.4 seed and bag the first set 6-4.
Frustration for Murray
Murray was livid, and let his entourage know it. The direction of his anger fools no-one, of course. He is really talking to himself, scolding, berating himself for not meeting his own unbelievably high standards. Team Murray played the role of the sympathetic friend, the all-forgiving parent, the encouraging coach - and waited for the next outburst.
No wonder Murray was annoyed. All other things being equal, he should have too much for the Serb, but now things were far from equal. He was a set down, and sore. Mister Troicki had most definitely become Mister Tricky. Serving solidly, finding the lines and keeping the ball in play, Troicki also won numerous points at the net to keep the pressure on his opponent.
But if Murray's mood is a surface indicator, the real barometer of his chances lies in his timing. When he finds his rhythm, the strings hum and the ball disappears over the net like a rocket. Little by little, that timing was becoming more evident. A lucky net cord gave him a break point at 3-2 and a cross-court forehand left Troicki standing.
Then, inexplicably, he lost his way again. His first service failing him, the fourth seed let Troicki back in, not once but twice, and the second set had gone 6-4.
Back to the wall
The old adage that form is temporary and class is permanent usually applies to five-set tennis, but with Murray showing that class only in flashes, his fate looked sealed, especially when he was broken again at the start of the third set.
Yet he refused to crumble. After all, he would have been left kicking himself had he given in to Troicki, with Juan Ignacio Chela the only obstacle to a first-ever semi-final appearance at the French Open. So the fightback began, and Troicki, who had been so resolute until then, was the one to crack.
Troicki cracksMurray broke back to 2-2, and would only lose another three games in the next two sets as Troicki tired. It was the Serb who looked most relieved when time was called and with good reason. The momentum had completely turned around and had Murray had time, he would surely have seen the match out. As it is, his ankle has time to stiffen up overnight, and his opponent time to rest before coming out guns blazing again.
One thing is for sure, Murray will have to get straight on it if he is to prevail. A repeat of today's start and he has no chance, but if he carries on where he left off, it is Troicki who will be packing his bags.