Murray squeaks through

A relieved world No. 2 Andy Murray after overcoming Radek Stepanek in a five-setter at the French Open. However, No. 1 Novak Djokovic and nine-time winner Rafael Nadal both enjoyed straight-sets opening wins.
A relieved world No. 2 Andy Murray after overcoming Radek Stepanek in a five-setter at the French Open. However, No. 1 Novak Djokovic and nine-time winner Rafael Nadal both enjoyed straight-sets opening wins.PHOTO: REUTERS

Scot rallies to win, Nadal and Djokovic coast but Kerber's recent awful form continues

PARIS • World No. 2 Andy Murray avoided a huge first-round upset at tennis' French Open yesterday, but Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber crashed out after losing to Kiki Bertens.

Murray, a three-time Roland Garros semi-finalist, recovered from a two-set deficit to overcome 37-year-old Radek Stepanek 3-6, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3, 7-5 on Court Philippe Chatrier.

The second seed had been trailing by two sets to one but was up a break in the fourth when play was suspended on Monday due to darkness.

The Scot duly returned to complete the job after making the crucial breakthrough at 5-all in the decider, to set up a second-round encounter with 164th-ranked French wild card Mathias Bourgue.

"He's always been extremely difficult to play," said Murray, after a ninth career comeback from two sets down.

"He was playing drop shots, hitting the ball very flat, it was very difficult to get into a rhythm. That's credit to him and the way he played.

  • SELECTED RESULTS

    Men's singles 1st rd

    Novak Djokovic (Srb) bt Lu Yen-hsun (Tpe) 6-4 6-1 6-1, Facundo Bagnis (Arg) bt Kenny de Schepper (Fra) 6-0 6-2 7-6 (7-2), Feliciano Lopez (Esp) bt Thomas Fabbiano (Ita) 6-4 6-4 3-6 6-2, Dominic Thiem (Aut) bt Inigo Cervantes (Esp) 3-6 6-2 7-5 6-1, Quentin Halys (Fra) bt Chung Hyeon (Kor) 6-1 6-4 6-4, John Isner (USA) bt John Millman (Aus) 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (14-12) 7-6 (9-7) 7-5, Andy Murray (Gbr) bt Radek Stepanek (Cze) 3-6 3-6 6-0 6-3 7-5, Rafael Nadal (Esp) bt Samuel Groth (Aus) 6-1 6-1 6-1, Lucas Pouille (Fra) bt Julien Benneteau (Fra) 6-3 4-6 6-4 7-6 (7-4), Aljaz Bedene (Gbr) bt Gerald Melzer (Aut) 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-4, Borna Coric (Cro) bt Taylor Fritz (USA) 6-3 6-1 6-3, Bernard Tomic (Aus) bt Brian Baker (USA) 6-3 6-4 6-4, Tomas Berdych (Cze) bt Vasek Pospisil (Can) 6-3 6-2 6-1.

    Women's singles 1st rd Madison

    Keys (USA) bt Donna Vekic (Cro) 6-3 6-2, Darya Kasatkina (Rus) bt Anna- Lena Friedsam (Ger) 6-1 4-6 6-3, Louisa Chirico (USA) bt Lauren Davis (USA) 6-2 2-6 8-6, Camila Giorgi (Ita) bt Alize Lim (Fra) 6-3 6-2, Ekaterina Makarova (Rus) bt Varvara Lepchenko (USA) 5-7 6-4 6-3, Timea Bacsinszky (Sui) bt Silvia Soler Espinosa (Esp) 6-3 6-1, Tatjana Maria (Ger) bt Jelena Jankovic (Srb) 6-3 3-6 6-3, Samantha Stosur (Aus) bt Misaki Doi (Jpn) 6-2 4-6 6-3, Zhang Shuai (Chn) bt Galina Voskoboeva (Kaz) 7-5 6-2, Carla Suarez Navarro (Esp) bt Katerina Siniakova (Cze) 6-2 4-6 6-2, Kiki Bertens (Ned) bt Angelique Kerber (Ger) 6-2 3-6 6-3, Dominika Cibulkova (Svk) bt Zheng Saisai (Chn) 6-3 6-1, Kristina Mladenovic (Fra) bt Francesca Schiavone (Ita) 6-2 6-4, Eugenie Bouchard (Can) bt Laura Siegemund (Ger) 6-2 6-2, Ana Konjuh (Cro) bt Arina Rodionova (Aus) 6-2 6-3, Timea Babos (Hun) bt Samantha Crawford (USA) 6-4 6-0, Alize Cornet (Fra) bt Kirsten Flipkens (Bel) 6-1 6-0, Wang Qiang (Chn) bt Tessah Andrianjafitrimo (Fra) 6-0 6-0.

"I don't expect to be doing that at his age. I am just pleased to have got through."

While Murray toiled, there were no such problems for nine-time champion Rafael Nadal, who extended his record at Roland Garros to 71 wins against just two losses.

The fourth-seeded Spaniard made quick work of 100th-ranked Sam Groth, taming the Australian's powerful serve with eight breaks in a resounding 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 win.

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic also sailed through to the second round, thrashing Chinese Taipei's Lu Yen-hsun 6-4, 6-1, 6-1.

The Serbian top seed now stands only six matches away from becoming the first man in almost 50 years to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time.

However, Kerber became the tournament's first major casualty as Dutchwoman Bertens consigned the German third seed to a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 defeat.

Bertens, who won her second career title at Nuremberg last Saturday, broke Kerber twice to claim the opening set on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Kerber, who failed to win a match at Madrid or Rome on clay, responded in the second set to force a decider but Bertens completed a shock victory to set up a second-round tie against Italy's Camila Giorgi.

Kerber committed 28 unforced errors compared to nine winners, taking a medical time-out when trailing 0-3 in the final set to undergo treatment on her ailing shoulder.

"The first rounds are always tough in the tournament, especially for me, but, yeah, what can I say? It happens," said Kerber, who saved a match point in her opening match against Japan's Misaki Doi en route to the title in Melbourne.

"She's a tough opponent. I was ready. But, yeah, at the end she made the important points."

American Varvara Lepchenko also fell at the first hurdle, losing 7-5, 4-6, 3-6 to Russian Ekaterina Makarova.

Lepchenko refused to comment on claims that she served a silent ban after testing positive for meldonium, the drug which has put Maria Sharapova's career on hold.

The Uzbekistan-born world No. 64 did not play on the WTA Tour from February to May. The reason, according to allegations made by Russian physio Anatoly Glebov, was that she had tested positive for 1mg of meldonium.

However, as that is below the time limit set by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada), she was allowed to return to competition in Rome earlier this month.

"If you have any questions about my match, I would gladly answer them," she said. "But otherwise, I just have no comments."

Five-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova was suspended in March after she revealed she had tested positive for meldonium at the Australian Open in January.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

FRENCH OPEN

Day 4: Singtel TV Ch114/115 & StarHub Ch208/209, 5pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2016, with the headline 'Murray squeaks through'. Print Edition | Subscribe