Murray battles back from the brink to outlast Gasquet again

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The Independent Online

For Wimbledon 2008 read Roland Garros 2010. Andy Murray brought back memories of his thrilling back-from-the-dead victory over Richard Gasquet at the All England Club two years ago when he again recovered from two sets down to beat the Frenchman in the first round of the French Open here yesterday.

Just as he did at Wimbledon, Murray clawed his way back, having been unable to match Gasquet's brilliance in the early stages. The world No 4 did not come as close to defeat as he had in their last meeting – Gasquet served for the match in the third set at Wimbledon – but it was close, Murray dropping his serve to trail by two sets and 3-2 before taking charge. The Scot, who now plays Argentina's Juan Ignacio Chela, won 4-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 after four hours and four minutes.

Gasquet's fatigue was clearly a factor, the Frenchman having won the title in Nice at the weekend after playing 13 matches in 19 days, but the recent record of the two players in five-set matches also tells you much about them both. Murray has won seven of his last eight matches when he has had to go the distance, while Gasquet has lost nine of his last 10.

Murray's resilience was all the more admirable given the recurring problems he is experiencing with his right knee. The Scot was born with a bipartite patella – his kneecap is split in two – and the joint has been particularly painful during the clay-court season.

"My knee is sore," Murray admitted afterwards. "A four-hour match probably wasn't the best thing for it when it's been sore the last few days. I've just got to do my best to try and make it better for the next round."

He added: "I didn't play a great first set. I wanted to win the first set quite badly. Maybe I put a little too much emphasis on winning it. I knew it was going to be tough for him if it went really long, but he was playing some great tennis. He was hitting huge balls and taking loads of chances."

In full flow Gasquet is a wonderful sight, a stylist with a game not unlike Roger Federer's. His single-handed backhand in particular is a beautiful shot, whether struck with top-spin or punched flat and hard. He also has a lovely touch at the net and can serve with power and precision. However, he has rarely performed well at Grand Slam tournaments and in seven appearances at Roland Garros has won just four matches.

Gasquet started strongly and the confidence he had derived from winning his first tournament for three years was evident as early as the second point, which he won with an exquisite drop shot. The crowd in Court Suzanne Lenglen were soon in full voice, with chants of "Richard! Richard!" filling the stadium.

After that Gasquet's tennis was as hot as the sun that again burned down from a cloudless sky, with the temperature reaching 28C. For two and a half sets the Frenchman played beautifully, driving backhand winners into the corners and serving purposefully. Murray said that at one point he had looked up at the scoreboard and noticed that Gasquet had made 59 winners and just 30 unforced errors.

Murray did not look comfortable in his movement, returned without conviction and served poorly. He was also unhappy with the way Gasquet held up the start of the Scot's service games because of movement in the crowd. "Every single game except one, he's stopped me and you haven't said a word to him," Murray complained to the umpire, Carlos Ramos, at the end of the second set. "Why are we playing the game at his pace?"

The only break of serve in the first set came in the final game, when Murray put a routine volley into the net. The second set was closer, but Murray had increasing problems with his serve and never led in the tie-break, which Gasquet won 7-5.

When the Frenchman broke again in the fifth game of the third set Murray's back was against the wall, but the Scot came out fighting. He promptly broke twice in a row, survived a blip when failing to serve out at 5-3, and then broke for a third time to take the set. The silence of the crowd told its own story.

Gasquet, who had asked in vain for the match to be delayed 24 hours because of his physical state, had treatment on his left knee and thigh, but by now the momentum had shifted decisively. Murray played a clever game, making the Frenchman play a lot of long rallies, and early breaks in the final two sets saw him home.

Elsewhere Federer made a confident start to his title defence, beating Australia's Peter Luczak 6-4, 6-1, 6-2, while Novak Djokovic overcame a second-set wobble to beat Evgeny Korolev, of Kazakhstan, 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3.