Andy Murray beats Radek Stepanek in five sets in French Open first round
ANDY Murray finally beat 37-year-old qualifier Radek Stepanek in five sets to avoid a shock first-round defeat at the French Open in Paris.
The British world number two trailed two sets to one when play was suspended on Monday because of bad light.
Murray, 29, won the fourth set but was pushed hard by his Czech opponent before winning the deciding set to clinch a 3-6 3-6 6-0 6-3 7-5 victory.
British number two Aljaz Bedene reached the second round for the first time.
The last time Murray lost in the first round of a Grand Slam was in 2008.
A three-time French Open semi-finalist, he has now come from two sets down to win nine times in Grand Slam matches.
Murray will next face French wildcard Mathias Bourgue, who is ranked 164 in the world.
When play began on Tuesday, Murray survived two break points in his opening service game before levelling the match by breaking.
But Stepanek, the oldest man in the draw, continued to frustrate the Briton with some inspired shot-making in a nervy fifth set.
Murray was two points from defeat when serving at 4-5 but held on and broke in the next game.
He double-faulted on his first match point but sealed victory after three hours and 41 minutes when Stepanek netted an attempted drop-volley two points later.
Murray, who sportingly applauded Stepanek off the court, said: “He had an extremely bad injury last year and still at 37 coming out and fighting like that, playing that way, it’s unbelievable.
“I don’t expect to be doing that myself at that age. I’m just glad I managed to get through.
“He’s always been extremely difficult to play. I wasn’t able to dictate many of the points, I wasn’t in a great rhythm, and that’s credit to him and the way that he played. I fought extremely hard today and I’ll get a chance to play again tomorrow.”
BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller
“Stepanek played a magnificent final set: serving and volleying himself out of trouble when the occasional break point down and engaging theatrically with the crowd, which warmed to a 37-year-old who is a real craftsman of his trade.
“Murray was two points from defeat at 4-5 deuce in that deciding set, but it is notable that with his French Open on the line he did not face a single break point in the final set.
“Stepanek’s poor final service game cost him dear, and despite serving a double fault on his first match point, Murray did not let him off the hook. The reserves of nervous energy have been depleted, but rather that than an early start to the grass-court season.” -BBC