French Open - Murray wins through despite injury scare
Thu, 31 May 12:45:00 2012
Murray lost the opening four games of the match and looked unable to move freely around the court, calling out the trainer at the first changeover as he struggled with a back injury, but incredibly battled from a set and 2-0 down to secure his place in the third round.
Murray complained to the trainer of not being able to stretch for the ball while receiving lengthy treatment, and his service action was barely recognisable as a result of the back problem with Nieminen able to coast through the opening set with consummate ease.
The Brit, a semi-finalist here last year, attempted to soldier on and even managed to break Nieminen's serve with a barely credible resistance to reduce the deficit, but was clearly hampered in his every movement.
The fourth seed lost the opening set 6-1 and the sparse Roland Garros crowd were left very surprised, including his opponent, when he decided to continue on into the second.
Murray, who had to withdraw from the Madrid Masters this month with a back problem, opted to stand during changeovers but began to move more easily as the match progressed.
The 25-year-old has a history of back problems and his frequent looks up to coach Ivan Lendl early on indicated that the injury was not at all unsuspected, but his determination to continue was vindicated by his resurgence.
Injured Murray struggles to serve
It was a very subdued atmosphere on Court Philippe Chatrier as Murray proceeded to lose the opening two games of the second set, but he did manage to hold in the third game with a gutsy service game.
What ensued was a remarkable turnaround as Murray won four games on the trot to take the second set in convincing fashion, while the Finn appeared to lose his poise and composure in the face of the sudden onslaught.
Murray took his momentum into the third set and opened up a commanding 3-0 lead as Nieminen continued to wilt, and the Brit's aggressive play left his opponent utterly shell-shocked.
Nieminen ended a losing run of seven successive games as he belatedly held serve in the third set, but Murray was relentless and refused to afford the Finn a glimmer of an opportunity to force his way back into it.
The fourth seed took the third set losing just a solitary game, and continued his assault into the fourth set as he broke in the opening game with Nieminen unable to muster a response.
The Finn looked entirely dispirited as he attempted to arrest his considerable slump, but was devoid of ideas and unable to adapt his gameplan effectively.
It was fairly comfortable for Murray in the fourth set as he conceded just two games with Nieminen cutting a despondent, world-weary figure, and he was left emotionally exhausted at the end of the match.
"It wasn't the same thing I had before," Murray said. "I was absolutely fine yesterday in practice, no problem, went to bed and I was fine, and I woke up this morning...couldn't put any weight on my left leg.
"After I got up from the changeover at 3-0, it was really, really sore," he added. "And then obviously I was struggling a lot for about an hour, hour 15, hour-and-a-half.
"Then it started to feel a bit better but still not great, but (I was) just kind of gritting my teeth and trying to find a way of turning the match around, because I was a few points probably from stopping in the middle of the second set. I couldn't believe I was in a position to win at the end of the fourth set.
"I'm going to try and carry on regardless, whether it's a bit sorer tomorrow or two days' time, I'm going to carry on," he added.
"If it was the same thing, then I would be really, really concerned about Wimbledon and obviously the Olympics but so long as what I'm getting told by doctors and the physios is that it is just a muscle spasm then that's nothing to be overly concerned by."
Nieminen said afterwards that he was disappointed with himself, adding: "I feel like I had him - I felt that I should have taken the second set. Overall I'm not happy the way I played."
Murray did not celebrate at all as he held his head in his hands after having closed out the win, and his early struggles will be a huge concern ahead of his third-round clash with Santiago Giraldo, who overcame Bernard Tomic of Australia in straight sets.
Dan Quarrell - follow on Twitter @Dan_Eurosport / Eurosport