Andy Murray and Jeremy Chardy will meet at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia for the second straight year when they collide in third round Rome action on Thursday.
Coming off his maiden ATP Masters 1000 clay court title triumph in Madrid last year, Murray defeated Chardy in straight sets in his Rome opener before opting to withdraw from his third round clash with fatigue. Murray essentially heads into this encounter in the same predicament - he contested the Madrid final on Sunday, only this time he was thwarted by long-time nemesis Novak Djokovic. But Murray appears to be as fresh as one can be, and he displayed no signs of fatigue in dispatching qualifier Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3 6-3 in his opener on Wednesday. It was his fourth straight victory over Kukushkin and his 18th win of the season, of which his highlights include runs to the final of the Australian Open and Madrid, along with a semi-final finish at the Monte-Carlo Masters.
Murray, who was cheered on by assistant coach Jamie Delgado and Great Britain Davis Cup captain Leon Smith, conceded he found it challenging to quickly transition from Madrid to Rome, but he feels in good shape for the remainder of the week.
"I did find it today difficult," said Murray. "It's a big change in the conditions, but I did some things well today. I will need to play better than I did today.
"I think the more the tournament goes on, the better you normally start to feel. You don't normally start to feel worse as the tournament goes on. If you are, something's not right there. Hopefully tomorrow I'll feel a bit better.”
Murray has traditionally struggled at Rome, with the Internazionali BNL d’Italia certainly his least successful Masters 1000 tournament to date. The World No. 3 has only reached one semi-final in Rome throughout his career (2011, lost to Djokovic). However this year he has landed in a fortuitous half of the draw, avoiding the likes of Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. This could be Murray’s best chance yet to reach a final in Rome, but first he must get past a man who has beaten one of those three aforementioned players at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in recent years.
Jeremy Chardy (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Jeremy Chardy arguably registered the biggest win of his career when he toppled then World No. 4 Roger Federer 1-6 6-3 7-6(8) in the second round of the 2014 Rome Masters. Chardy sensationally saved a match point in the thrilling final set tiebreak and went on to reach the quarter-finals - just the fourth time in 56 attempts that he’s made the final eight at a Masters 1000 event.
An extremely flashy player with the ability to transition between the sublime and disastrous at a moment’s notice, this week marks the first time since February at Delray Beach that Chardy has won back-to-back matches on tour. Following second round exits at Monte Carlo and Barcelona, along with crashing out in the opening round in Madrid last week, Chardy recovered from dropping the first set in his Rome opener to defeat Damir Dzumhur. Chardy then posted his best win of the season in the second round, upstaging 15th seed Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6(6) 6-4. Before this week, Chardy’s highlights of 2016 included quarter-final finishes at Doha, Sydney and Delray Beach, along with an epic five-set triumph in the opening round of the Australian Open against Ernests Gulbis, where the Frenchman prevailed 13-11 in the fifth.
Murray and Chardy have met on eight previous occasions, all at either Grand Slam or Masters 1000 tournaments. Murray has won seven of those meetings, including last year at Rome and Roland Garros. Chardy’s lone triumph came at the Cincinnati Masters in 2012, where he reached his only semi-final at a Masters 1000 event. Despite Murray’s dominance, it’s possibly a danger match for the Brit, depending on what version of Chardy shows up. Chardy is certainly capable of the upset, but right now, it’s not likely. Murray should get the job done and set up a quarter-final date with either Tomas Berdych or David Goffin.