By Philip James
Andy Murray (3) 5-7 6-2 6-2 Evgeny Donskoy
Andy Murray fought back from dropping the first set against little-known Evgeny Donskoy to win his second round match at the Masters Series BNP Paribas Open.
The British number one had lost in his first match at Indian Wells (where seeds receive a first round bye) for the last two years and it seemed he might make it three in a row against a Russian who looked a lot better than his world ranking of 83.
Seeded three, Murray was playing in his first match since losing the Australian Open final to Novak Djokovic in January and be it rust or nerves, he started slowly with poor ground strokes that just were not finding the corners.
In contrast, Indian Wells debutant Donskoy was hitting the kind of hammer shots which had the crowd and pundits asking why they hadn’t heard more of this young man.
After the opening two games went with serve Donskoy went on a run of four in a row, with two breaks, thanks largely to his ruthless punishment of Murray’s second serve.
But as Donskoy served for the set, his shots- to-nothing started missing the lines and Murray began to make some big ground strokes of his own to control the points.
Murray, dug into keep the set alive and then started to play his best tennis to break twice to make it 5-5.
It looked as if the comeback was to be completed as Murray reached 15-40, but some miraculous ground shots and net play saw Donskoy save those two break points and then four more to stop the rot.
After that 12 minute game Donskoy had the wind in his sails and an exquisite lob and great returning earned three set points and he took the third with an excellent passing shot.
But the Russian could not sustain the excellence and after the hour-long marathon first set, the second lasted just over half as long.
At two games all, Murray started to boss his opponent around the court and eked out a break point on which Donskoy, excellent at the net thus far, missed an easy volley.
While Donskoy continued to hit big, he could not stand toe to toe with the Scot who was making far fewer unforced errors with the Russian forced deeper behind the baseline.
Nor could Donskoy find the crunching winners on the big points as he had in the first set, and the British number one reeled off four games in a row to win the set 6-2.
The momentum was now well and truly with Murray, while Donskoy could not buy a first serve, dropping a break in the first game of the third set.
The big hits and finesse shots alike were deserting Donskoy and at 1-3, a missed forehand and then a drop shot to surrender three points for a double break which Murray gobbled up with a rasping pass on the run.
Donskoy continued to entertain the crowd with some huge returns but there was no fairy-tale ending as Murray served out to win in two hours and 17 minutes.
Former grand-slam winner Marat Safin has been mentoring Donskoy, and if this form continues, his charge could break the top 50.
Meanwhile Murray will face Yen-Hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei in round three.