Surrounded by the stunning mountains of Central California, Andy Murray took the scenic route to victory this afternoon against 83rd ranked Evgeny Donskoy. The rusty-looking Scot advanced to the third round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, beating the Russian number five 5-7 6-2 6-2.
Although the encounter was a ragged one from Murray’s point of view, the final two sets will be what he would have expected from a match-up against a mid-ranked big-hitter. The world number three would doubtless take the 5-7 first-set reverse as a trade-off for his seven-week respite from competitive action.
The afternoon was off to a bad start for Murray in the broiling Californian sun, as he slipped to a 1-5 first-set deficit, shanking groundshots wildly into the tramlines and generally looking like a man desperately searching for some kind of form.
When he pulled back to 5-5, the Scot seemed to have found it. But Donskoy, looking like the love child of Jimmy Connors and Tim from The Office, was a man possessed throughout the opening set. Read more (236 words)
With his careless-match-in-a-box-of-fireworks game, the Russian smoked some outrageous winners, not least a magnificent, towering lob at 6-5. Donskoy followed that up with a nuclear forehand down the line to bring up three set points, converting on the third with a thundering backhand pass that left Murray floundering at the net.
From there, though, it was one-way traffic. The Scot, who can overtake Federer as world number two in this event, began to impose his bigger, more-rigid matchplay on the Russian. Donskoy’s game began to look wild and ragged and Murray surged to a 5-2 lead, sealing the second set with a colossal forehand into the corner.
It was more of the same in set three. The British number one kept Donskoy off balance with a barrage of searing groundshots and exquisite dropshots. Murray raced to a 5-2 lead and concluded an entertaining match with a huge serve that the Russian bunted long.
The victory should help erase some nasty memories for Murray, who has tasted first-match defeats here both last year against Garcia-Lopez and in 2011, when Donald Young took advantage of the Scot’s post-Australian Open-final malaise.
A relieved Murray said afterwards, "I've been playing sets in practice, but nothing beats getting on a match court. I was definitely nervous, but I just need to get a few matches under my belt.”
Next up is Taipei’s Yen-Hsun Lu, a 7-6 7-6 winner over Martin Klizan.