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.
The second seed had been tormented by his 37-year-old opponent in the previous evening’s gloom, being outplayed in the opening two sets before repairing some of the damage by the time bad light intervened with him leading 4-2 in the fourth set.
If he hoped things would be less complicated when the match resumed on Philippe Chatrier Court, he was sadly mistaken as a reinvigorated and inspired Stepanek came within two points of an unlikely upset.
Feeding off the crowd, Stepanek conjured numerous moments of magic, out-foxing Murray with crafty drop-shots and slices and throwing in some classic serve and volley to keep his 29-year-old opponent off balance.
There was plenty of respect from Murray after the match, as he warmly consoled the 128th-ranked Czech and applauded him off court.
“It is unbelievable what he is doing. He had a bad injury last year yet at 37 is still coming out and fighting like he is,” said Murray.
“He has always been extremely difficult to play. He hardly missed any volleys – until the one on match point and even that nearly got over – hit a lot of drop shots and hit the ball very flat and that made it very hard for me.
“I don’t expect to be doing that at his age! I am just pleased to have got through.”
Murray won 10 of the last 12 games on Monday to seize the momentum and sealed victory when Stepanek netted an attempted drop-volley.
With a kind-looking draw, Murray can now look forward to another deep run at a venue where he has reached the semis three times.
“I had a bit of momentum yesterday. But I had to fight extremely hard today,” Murray said.
He’ll now play French wildcard Mathias Bourge in the next round.