Perfect present for Murray
Birthday boy Andy Murray survived a stern examination from David Nalbandian before moving into the third round of the Rome Masters.
Murray appeared to be on his way to a comfortable win as he clinched a one-sided first set, but then found himself drawn into a titantic struggle as Nalbandian finally hit his straps.
In the end a lucky net-chord played a pivotal role as Murray claimed a decisive break in the third set before going on to wrap up a 6-1 4-6 7-5 triumph on his 25th birthday.
Murray made much the better start and seized on a series of sluggish errors from his opponent to race into a commanding 4-0 lead with a couple of early breaks.
Nalbandian retrieved one of them in the fifth game, but any hope he had of getting back into the set evaporated when Murray won a marathon 15-minute sixth game to re-establish his four-game cushion with a third break of serve.
The Scot closed out the set with the minimum of fuss as he held to love and appeared in complete control of the contest.
But Nalbandian looked an altogether different proposition in the second having battled back from 15-30 down to take the opening game - holding serve for the first time in the process.
The set then remained on serve until Murray looked to stay in it on his own delivery at 4-5. Having been take to deuce, the Briton fended off two set points for Nalbandian but succumbed on the third, netting a forehand to allow his rival to square the match.
It was Murray who created the first break-point opportunity in the decider, but Nalbandian survived it thanks to a backhand pass and subsequently held to move 2-1 ahead.
Indeed, it was the Argentine who did secure a break in the very next game as Murray produced a tame and untimely double-fault, but the Scot responded in commendable fashion to break straight back as he put away a clinical backhand overhead to make the score 3-2.
Despite further chances for both players, proceedings remained on serve until Nalbandian had the balls at 5-5.
Murray then surged 0-40 ahead and, after failing to take his first two chances, sealed what would prove the crucial break in fortunate fashion - his backhand clipping the top off the net and just creeping over to leave Nalbandian stranded.
Even then Murray found it difficult to shake off his pugnacious opponent, and had to fight back from 15-40 down as he served for the match, but eventually closed out victory when Nalbandian sent a forehand into the net.