Andy Murray tore up any premise for a French fairytale and had few troubles beating home hope Eric Prodon in the first-round of the French Open. He silenced the Suzanne Lenglen court and triumphed 6-4, 6-1, 6-3, in one hour and 44 minutes.
Prodon, a journeyman who makes his living on clay, showed a great attitude to begin with. In the early exchanges it was the Frenchman who forced the issue first. He showed feather-like touch and prowess on the backhand side, trying to bring Murray towards the net.
However, the gulf in class showed as Murray upped the gears at will. In a rally featuring brutal ground strokes Prodon wobbled first and hit a backhand out, handing Murray a break and a 3-1 lead. Prodon continued to attack – he hit nine winners in the first set - and attempted daring drop shots from all points of the court.
He got a break back in the ninth game with a devilish, dropping slice which the labouring Murray could not reach. But after taking tablets for a slight illness at the break, Prodon crumbled and hit a backhand wide to hand a rejuvenated, more attacking Murray the first set.Read more (423 words)
The French qualifier began to show the first signs of waning enthusiasm in the second set. A catalogue of errors – including a long forehand - and slumped shoulders saw Murray take a break in the fourth game and lead 3-1.
Prodon’s gameplan deteriorated hugely here and his lack of match fitness at this level began to show. His body language became languid and Murray, winning a dominant 93% of points on his first serve, cantered to 6-1 in the second set.
The virtuoso touch shots still flowed from the wrists of Prodon though. With Murray’s mind elsewhere, the 29-year-old, well versed in the Central American challenger circuit, tapped home a perfect drop shot with an open racket face to earn a break and serve at 3-1 up.
Pressure sometimes tells though. Prodon was relentlessly forthright with his shots but not always accurate – two errors found him staring down the barrel and 0-30 down on his own serve. Murray arced home a forehand winner which clipped the line, and after much deliberation, was confirmed as in and the Scot now had three break points. Another Murray forehand winner came when he broke back without losing a point.
The world number four then found a groove and the accuracy of his shots improved. Winners flowed from Murray’s racket and a hold followed by a pinpoint forehand into the corner left the Scot 4-3 up and about to serve.
Prodon looked finished as he had another short consultation with the trainer. The points began to shorten with Murray serving two aces that left his opponent with a daunting task of serving stay to in it.
Credit to the Frenchman though – he entertained throughout. And how fitting that he would lose the match whilst going for the jugular? Whilst match point down, the world No. 130 tried a risky drop shot from way back, which rolled down the wrong side of the net. The set finished 6-3 to Murray, a deserved winner.
Murray could have had poorer work-outs. He was on court in the early morning heat with a wildly ambitious and spirited journeyman. Prodon tried to turn the screws all the time, and a hardened pro of the ATP main tour may have had more success.
The Dunblane native’s break point conversion stood at 64% and his first serves points won at 87%, so there are promising signs on both sides. Despite losing to qualifiers twice so far this season, he never looked in danger and next faces another qualifier in Simone Bolelli.