Sports shorts: Updates and rumours
Murray struggles ; Celtic signing; Benitez backed
Following his outstanding clay court form in Madrid, where he lost to Novak Djokovic in the final, and his success over the same opponent to lift the Italian trophy, Murray is struggling in Paris and also to understand the reasons why.
Just as 37-year-old Radek Stepanek, ranked 128, took him to five sets in the first round so a 22-year-old from Avignon almost topped the Scot in the second.
Murray took three hours and 34 minutes to see off Mathias Bourgue who is ranked 164 in the world and had never played more than three sets.
The 6-2, 2-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 win books Murray a third round tie against world number 28 Ivo Karlovic – whom he has beaten six times out of six – on Friday. That gives him a day on the practice courts to put right whatever is going wrong.
He insists that the split with his coach Amelie Mauresmo is not a factor, although he admits that the speculation surrounding it has been a distraction he could do without.
“Today certainly wasn’t easy,” he said after beating Bourgue. “I lost my way…I was struggling to win points at one stage, I was losing a lot of games at love. Every time the ball was in the middle of the court he was hitting winners. I couldn’t see where his shots were going.”
Celtic’s new manager Brendan Rodgers has made former colleague and Reading first team coach Chris Davies his first signing at Parkhead.
The 31-year-old worked with Rodgers at Swansea and Liverpool and will become an assistant coach at Celtic.
Injury forced him to retire from playing football at just 19 and he has pursued a successful coaching career.
Rodgers said: “He is a magnificent coach and someone I know will make a hugely positive contribution to the club.
Davies added: “It is a great honour and a proud moment for me to be named assistant manager. I saw the scenes at Celtic Park on Monday and there are not many clubs or fans in the world who could have put on such a show.
“I have worked with Brendan over a number of years, as a player and a coach, and it will be fantastic to team up with him again. I know all about his affection for Celtic and his appetite for taking on this great job.”
Rafa Benitez began last season in charge of Real Madrid, but will spend next season battling unlikely rivals such as Burton Albion and Rotherham United in the second tier of English football.
The 56-year-old Spaniard is to stay on as head coach at St James’ Park after being brought in to replace Steve Maclaren in March
Benitez lost his job at the Bernabeu and Newcastle and Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley hoped he could keep the north east club in the Premier League.
His ten games in charge culminated in an unexpected 5-1 thrashing of one-time title contenders Tottenham, but it was too late to save the Geordies’ Premier League status.
He has now agreed to stay with the club after insisting on total control of football matters.
Newcastle are reckoned to be the most expensive team to have been relegated from the top tier and will expect to bounce back next season,