Albert Ramos-Vinolas produced a huge upset in Monte Carlo in the third round, knocking out the world number one Andy Murray 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 to secure the biggest win of his career.
* Article originally published by me for UBITennis.net *
The Spaniard, enjoying a career-high ranking of 24 this week, struggled in the first set, not holding serve once as Murray made every return of serve into play. Neither player played particularly well in the early exchanges, with the Brit winning just 47% of points behind his first serve, but he was able to get over the line. It was a complete contrast for the Spaniard in set number two, he never looked like dropping serve and only made four unforced errors, frustrating the top seed as he levelled at one set all. Leading 4-0 in the final set it looked as though the world number one was going to survive, but Ramos-Vinolas refused to give in and despite some setbacks closed out the match to reach the quarterfinals in Monte Carlo for the first time.
Having been broken in the first game of the match against Gilles Muller yesterday, the Brit was eager to make a better start this morning on Court Rainier III. In what was the players first meeting, getting the first hold proved to be a tough task for the world number one as Ramos-Vinolas moved into a 15-30 advantage. Murray outlasted his opponent in a 24 shot rally to move to 30-30 before squandering a couple of game points as both players traded brutal groundstrokes from the back of the court. The top seed was able to hold on the third opportunity to take the first game.
His opponent’s opening service game was a marathon, lasting just under 11 minutes. A sublime drop shot from the Brit followed by a forehand error from Ramos-Vinolas brought up a break point for Murray, but a backhand down the line winner following a poor drop shot helped the Spaniard save that chance. A daring forehand from from the world number 24 caught the back of the line to save a second break point before the 29-year-old squandered a game point of his own. Ramos-Vinolas battled hard to save two more break points but was not to deny the former semifinalist here on a fifth occasion as he ripped a backhand winner to move 2-0 in front.
What followed in the next few games were four successive breaks of serve. First Ramos-Vinolas hit back after some poor errors from the world number one, closing with an inside out forehand down the line winner. Murray then responded and capitalised on his first chance to break with a backhand winner, but then played a terrible service game to go down 0-40. His opponent squandered one opportunity but did not miss the next, finishing with a cross court forehand winner. After suffering that disappointment the Brit bounced back and was far more aggressive with his court positioning and ball striking, breaking the Spaniard once again to stay in front.
After finally managing to hold serve for the first time since the opening game, that was the chance to breakaway which Murray needed as he broke Ramos-Vinolas yet again, closing with a backhand cross court, his 18th winner of the match so far, to seal the opening set 6-2 after 48 minutes.
Murray recovered from 0-30 down in his opening service game of the second set to hold but could not prevent the Spaniard from getting his first hold of his own in the match before breaking the Brit’s serve in the next game, seeing Ramos-Vinolas take control for the first time in the match.
Things got even better for the world number 24 after a double fault from Murray put the Brit in all kinds of trouble on serve down two more break points. Ramos-Vinolas only needed the one as he moved further ahead, moving into a 5-2 lead. The Spaniard was unable to take his first set point when serving for it, but after a defensive lob from the world number one went wide Ramos-Vinolas deservedly sealed the second set 6-2 to force a decider.
In the final set the world number one raised his level and capitalised on a lull in his opponent’s play, securing an immediate break after the Spaniard went wide with a forehand cross court. Murray quickly established a 3-0 advantage and the scoreline pressure proved telling on Ramos-Vinolas, as three unforced errors saw the world number 24 fall 0-40 down. A second double fault in the game proved incredibly costly for the 29-year-old as he fell even further behind.
It looked as though the world number one had the match in the bag at this stage, but Murray’s concentration dropped as he fell 0-40 down on serve. The Brit saved two of the three break points, but could not prevent the Spaniard from getting a game back. Ramos-Vinolas then staved off three break points on his own serve to escape with a hold before breaking once again to close the gap to just one game behind.
Ramos-Vinolas held to love to level at four games all and came mightily close to earning the right to serve for the match. The Spaniard did brilliantly to bring up three break points at 0-40, but Murray demonstrated why he is world number one, resisting everything which the world number 24 threw at him, taking five points in a row to move 5-4 in front. A 40-0 lead on serve then evaporated for Ramos-Vinolas and it looked to be curtains, but the 29-year-old stood firm and eventually converted on his fifth game point to level the scores once again.
The world number one’s intensity dropped in the 11th game and resulted in the Brit facing two break points yet again. This time Murray could not escape, going long with a forehand to hand the chance to Ramos-Vinolas to serve for the match. The Spaniard got a little tight when 30-0 became 30-30 before a match point passed the 15th seed by, but the 29-year-old held his nerve to secure the biggest win of his career.