Murray edges see-saw battle
Andy Murray staged a Houdini act in the Californian desert to reach the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open.
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The Wimbledon champion lost the first set to 20-year-old Czech Jiri Vesely and was behind in both the second and third sets before somehow turning it around to win 6-7 (2/7) 6-4 6-4.
Murray was fortunate he was playing someone so new to this level and the youngster's nerves had a lot to do with the outcome.
Vesely is the youngest player in the top 100 having achieved the rare feat these days of breaking in as a teenager last summer.
Indian Wells was his first Masters tournament and that was clearly apparent at the start as a series of errors helped Murray race into a 3-0, breaking serve twice. But he let Vesely into the match with a poor service game and from then on it became decidedly uncomfortable.
Murray, playing on the new Stadium 2 for the first time, could not find anything like his A game. He scrapped his way to 5-3 but was then broken serving for the set.
A double fault gave Vesely the chance and, although umpire Mohamed Lahyani called the Czech's forehand out, Hawk-eye showed it was on the line and he was awarded the game. There were a few mutters from Murray but no real protest.
That was not the case at 2-1 in the tie-break when Vesely appeared to lean over the net to play a shot but Lahyani did not agree and Murray did not look like clawing back the deficit.
It was a shocking set to lose for the fifth seed, and he compounded it by playing another terrible game to be broken at the start of the second.
Vesely let his opponent back in with a poor game to make it 3-3, but no sooner had he got back on serve than Murray dropped his own again.
The Scot then had a visit from the trainer to have strapping removed from his foot, which may have hinted at an explanation for his troubles.
The main hope for Murray was Vesely's inexperience and his nerves showed with a succession of missed smashes, helping the Wimbledon champion level again at 4-4.
When the Czech finally connected cleanly with an overhead in the next game, he raised his arms in celebration and earned a huge cheer from the crowd.
But Vesely simply could not hold his serve and when he pushed a lob long Murray had a third successive break and the set.
Having come from a set down against Lukas Rosol in his first match, Murray won the third quite easily, but his struggles continued here as he came out on the wrong end of three straight breaks to start the third set.
Vesely appeared to be handling the pressure of leading such an illustrious name better this time but faltered at 4-3, a wayward volley and double fault giving Murray the break back.
Vesely was starting to cramp and Murray piled the pressure on with the Czech serving to stay in it, finally taking his third match point.
Murray admitted he had given himself a scare, saying on court: "It was a tough match.
"It's his first year on tour. He's going to have a bright future. He made it very hard for me.
"There were a lot of breaks. Serve is normally a strong point in both our games. I had to hang around and try to make it hard for him. Thankfully I got the break back and managed to close it out.
"The most important thing today was that I won.
"I wasn't happy with the way that I played. It's kind of days like that where I could have lost the match and you don't get an opportunity until Miami to play better or to improve some things.
"It's good to have the chance to play another match here and hopefully put in a better performance.
"It was just one of those matches where there wasn't one period where I thought that the level of tennis from both of us was high at the same time.
"That can create a lot of breaks and a lot of sort of back and forth swings in the match. It wasn't just the start of the match that was frustrating. The whole match was."
Murray will next face 10th-seeded Canadian Milos Raonic, who advanced to the Round of 16 for a second straight year with a 6-4 6-3 win over Colombian Alejandro Falla.