British No.1 Andy Murray came through a slight scare to beat Slovakian Martin Klizan in the first round of the tournament in Vienna.
Klizan started the match in fantastic fashion as he generated three break points in the first game of the encounter, but Murray snuffed out any danger by holding his serve. The first set really was a demonstration of an elite player taking their limited chances, while the lower-ranked player showed their lack of experience on the big points. The Slovakian showed he had the game to cause the Brit a lot of problems, but not the consistency to trouble the World No.2 on a regular basis.
In the early stage of the first set, it became clear that Klizan respected the solidity of Murray’s baseline game – being one of the game’s best defensive baseline players – so he tried his best to take the points into his own hands. We witnessed the Slovakian rush to the net in order to give the Brit something else to think about. However the World No.2 handled the change of tactic extremely well. His ability to deliver sumptuous backhand passing shots when at the end of his range continues to be one of the best sights in tennis and Murray was feeling that shot brilliantly in the first set, as he won it 6-3.
Klizan fought back valiantly in the second set. He was staring down the barrel with a set and a break deficit, but profited from a few loose games from Murray. The two-time Olympic gold medalist grabbed the break lead once again and served for the match at *6-5, but the Slovakian cracked a forehand return winner to take the second set into a tiebreak. He had some unfinished business in this match and was not going to let up easily.
Murray held three mini-break advantages in the tie-break but lost the stability behind his groundstrokes and the strength of mind to drive through with the victory in straight sets. It was reminiscent of some of the mental lapses that Murray had in some of his notable matches at this year’s US Open.
Klizan successfully took the match into a deciding set, but his game failed to hold up under the intense examination of playing a Top 2 player in Murray. The difference between the two players in this contest is that the Brit can still play some of his best tennis when he is pushed to defensive, awkward and uncomfortable positions of the court, whereas Klizan has to constantly be on the front-foot in order to feel he is in control of a point. The World No.2 forced the Slovakian to play outside of his comfort zone on some occasions and waited for him to self-destruct on others. The World No.35 eventually fell apart and gifted a double fault to lose the final set 6-0 to the 2014 Vienna champion. It was a brief scare for Murray, but ultimately consistency prevailed over brute power in this match.
Andy Murray  vs Gilles Simon – H2H: Murray leads 15-2
Murray enjoys playing the Frenchman Gilles Simon for a number of reasons. The most important reason is that Simon mirrors what Murray presents on a tennis court, but Murray simply plays the defensive brand of tennis much better than the Frenchman. Like Murray, Simon can play an attacking style of tennis, but feels much more comfortable and content to exchange rallies from deep behind the baseline. It is Simon’s way of reverting back to a default setting.
Murray owns a 15-2 head-to-head against Simon. Simon’s only two wins came in Rotterdam in 2015 and on the clay courts of Rome back in 2007, so Simon rarely gets any joy from playing the three-time Grand Slam champion.
If Simon applies the mindset of taking the match to Murray – just like Klizan did – then we could have a very competitive match on our hands, but I think Murray will come through a cagey match and continue his winning run of twelve match wins in a row.
Kyle Edmund had to retire with a hip injury in his opening match against David Ferrer after playing just five games. This particular injury may cut his promising season short, which would be a terrible turn of events following a landmark season for the 21-year-old. It remains to be seen whether Edmund will be fit enough to compete in the upcoming Paris Masters event where a lot of ATP points will be up for grabs.
Murray v Simon is scheduled fourth on Centre Court in Vienna on Thursday.
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