Murray beats Kuznetsov to reach second round .com
Andy Murray avoided the fate of fellow world number one Angelique Kerber by coming through his first-round match at the French Open in four sets.
The Briton, 30, beat Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov 6-4 4-6 6-2 6-0.
Defeat for Murray would have seen both top seeds exit a Grand Slam in round one for the first time in the open era.
Fellow Briton Johanna Konta earlier lost to world number 109 Hsieh Su-Wei, while Kyle Edmund impressed in beating Portugal’s Gastao Elias 6-3 6-2 7-5.
Murray goes on to face Slovakia’s Martin Klizan, the world number 50, while Edmund will play either 12th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France or Argentina’s Renzo Olivo.
Olivo was just a game away from knocking the Frenchman out of his home tournament when the match was stopped for bad light with the world number 91 leading 7-5 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 5-4.
“It was a decent start, considering how I played in the build-up,” said Murray.
Fellow Briton Aljaz Bedene reached the second round on Monday and plays against Czech Jiri Vesely on Wednesday.
Slow start, strong finish from Murray
Murray has struggled for form and fitness in 2016 and arrived in Paris apparently more vulnerable than ever, but the first hurdle was cleared despite a patchy start.
Kuznetsov, the world number 73, broke the Murray serve four times – twice in taking the second set – which prompted some self-mocking sarcastic applause from the Briton.
The contest was very much on at one set all, but a moment of inspiration turned things in Murray’s favour early in the third.
Kuznetsov had him chasing down a lob, seemingly hopelessly, only for the Scot to send up a towering response over his shoulder that dropped just inside the baseline.
The Russian could only fire his smash into the net, drawing a huge roar from the previously unengaged crowd, and Murray raced through eight straight points to take a grip on the match.
Glimmers of the player who dominated the second half of 2016 began to emerge – a familiar backhand pass rocketed down the line, a drop shot that left Kuznetsov stranded.
With coach Ivan Lendl typically poker-faced, it fell to the rest of Team Murray to gee up their man with shouts of “Come on Andy, let’s go!”
Murray did just that in the fourth set, taking a decisive lead as he stretched his domination to eight straight games.
With the sun finally shining on a cooler day in Paris, Murray had the crowd on their feet with one magnificent drop shot on his way to sealing victory after two hours and 32 minutes.
It was good I was able to regain my concentration and finish the match off in straight sets
“It definitely got better as it went on,” said Murray.
“I started to move a bit better towards the end, and was hitting the ball better when I was defending.
“That’s something the last few weeks I haven’t done so well and didn’t start off the match doing particularly well.
“But once I was getting a little bit more on my ball when I was defending, there wasn’t too many openings for him in the points.”
Analysis – Murray shows his steel
BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller
There were many reassuring signs for Murray as the match progressed: he started to move better and hit some exhibition style shots once he had conjured that remarkable over the shoulder recovery lob.
The closing two sets will have done much for his confidence, especially as he had played quite passively and seemed to be lacking firepower in the opening two sets.
Murray was broken four times in five games at one stage, but showed plenty of steel throughout the match as he converted nine out of 10 break points.
Edmund impresses en route to round two
Ranked 49 in the world, Edmund was playing an opponent 59 places below him
Edmund, 22, started as the clear favourite against Portugal’s Elias but impressed in reaching the second round at Roland Garros for the third successive year.
The Yorkshireman hit a number of powerful forehands on his way to comfortably taking the first two sets and fought back from a break down to win the third.
“I controlled a lot of the match,” the British number two said. “In the third set it showed why in a best-of-five-set match you have to keep your concentration. I felt like I was cruising and still went down a break.
“It was good I was able to regain my concentration and finish the match off in straight sets.”