PARIS (AFP) –
Andy Murray and defending champion Rafael Nadal both reached the third round of the French Open on Thursday, but their manner of going through could not have been more different.
The British fourth seed defeated Jarkko Nieminen 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2, but he had looked down and out in the first few games of the match as he struggled to shake off back spasms and pain in his left leg.
In stark contrast Nadal took his Roland Garros match record to 47-1 with a straightforward 6-2, 6-2, 6-0 win over Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan.
Elsewhere, fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga completed a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 win over German qualifier Cedrik-Marcel Stebe in a match interrupted by rain late Wednesday, while sixth seed David Ferrer of Spain coasted past Benoit Paire of France 6-3, 6-3, 6-2.
Grimacing in pain and clutching his back and legs, Murray needed medical treatment three times in quick succession as grim-faced coach Ivan Lendl looked on.
But at a set and 4-2 down, Murray suddenly found a new lease of life and a run of seven games in a row in his favour gave him command.
The strained look on his face at the end when Nieminen hit long on match point, however, bore testimony to the concern that he must have for his chances of making it six straight semi-final appearances at Grand Slam tournaments.
“It was fine yesterday, went to bed and woke this morning and couldn’t put weight on my left leg,” Murray said of his injury woes.
“At practice it was okay, not great, but okay. But we talked about not playing the match.
“Right at the beginning of the match it wasn’t too bad, then at the changeover at 3-0 it was really sore and was struggling badly.
“Then afer an hour and a half it started to feel a bit better so I just gritted my teeth.
“I was a few points from stopping in the middle of the second set.
“I just didn’t really want to stop the match and he made some mistakes and it was his fault for letting me back in the match.”
There was no such drama for Nadal.
The Spaniard, who will turn 25 during the tournament, is seeking to win a record seventh French Open title, taking him out of tie for the most wins he currently shares with Bjorn Borg.
His opponent, who had yet to get past the second round at Roland Garros struggled throughout to deal with the heavy top-spin barrage that Nadal fired his way.
Murray’s next opponent in the third round will be Colombian Santiago Giraldo who defeated Australian 25th seed Bernard Tomic 6-4, 6-1, 6-3
Another South American claycourter to make it through was 13th seed Juan Monaco of Argentina who stopped Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic 7-6 (7/4), 6-0, 7-6 (7/5).
Rising Canadian player Milos Raonic defeated qualifier Jesse Levine 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 meaning that five days into the tournament John Isner is the only surviving American player.
Isner was on court later on Thursday against Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu, aiming to reach the third round at Roland Garros for just the second time in his career.