Tennis: Murray battles past Stepanek in cliffhanger but Nadal coasts

Andy Murray reacts during the game against Radek Stepanek.
Andy Murray reacts during the game against Radek Stepanek.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (REUTERS) - Andy Murray survived a nervy fifth-set decider against Czech veteran Radek Stepanek to complete a 3-6, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3, 7-5 comeback win and scrape into the French Open second round on Tuesday.

In contrast, Rafael Nadal started his quest for a record-breaking 10th title in merciless fashion, demolishing Australian Sam Groth 6-1 6-1 6-1.

Second seed Murray had been tormented by the 37-year-old Stepanek the previous evening, being outplayed in the opening two sets, but had repaired some of the damage before play was suspended with him leading 4-2 in the fourth set.

On resumption, the Scot survived two break points in his opening service game before levelling the match but a reinvigorated and inspired Stepanek refused to go away quietly, producing some inspired shot-making.

Murray was two points from defeat when serving at 4-5 but held his nerve and broke in the next game.

He double-faulted on his first match point but sealed victory, the ninth of his career from a two-set deficit, when Stepanek netted an attempted drop-volley two points later.

He sportingly applauded the Czech off the court, as the Court Philippe Chatrier crowd showed their appreciation for the efforts of the oldest man in the men's draw.

Murray, three times a semi-finalist at Roland Garros, next faces French wild card Mathias Bourge.

Earlier, the fourth-seeded Spaniard, who will play either Argentinian Facundo Bagnis or French qualifier Kenny de Schepper in the second round, played flawless tennis throughout, making only three unforced errors in a one-sided match.

Nadal, who turns 30 next week, has won two titles on clay this season, including the Monte Carlo Masters in April. He ended his opponent's misery with a trademark cross-court forehand winner on his second match point on Court Suzanne Lenglen.