Paris: Fourth seed Andy Murray, grimacing in pain, battled his way into the third round of the French Open on Thursday by defeating Finn Jarkko Nieminen 1-6 6-4 6-1 6-2 despite back problems.
Defending champion Rafa Nadal`s progress was quicker. The Spaniard, aiming for a record seventh French Open title, thrashed Uzbekistan`s Denis Istomin 6-2 6-2 6-0.
Nadal and Murray were joined in the third round by French fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who returned to complete a match suspended overnight because of rain and finished off German Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 6-2 4-6 6-2 6-1.
Local favourite Paul-Henri Mathieu took the hardest route. He set a French Open record for the most games played in a match (76) when he beat American John Isner 6-7 6-4 6-4 3-6 18-16 in five hours 41 minutes.
Isner is no stranger to long matches, needing 183 games to beat Mathieu`s compatriot Nicola Mahut at Wimbledon two years ago in the longest professional tennis match ever played.
Murray was a semi-finalist last year, his best result at the claycourt grand slam, but looked to be heading for an early exit in the first set of his match on Philippe Chatrier court.
He summoned the trainer three times and lay, with his teeth clenched, as his back was massaged, then got up again to move stiffly around the court. At changeovers, he stayed on his feet rather than sitting down.
Nieminen, however, was unable to take advantage and as the match progressed, and Murray loosened up and started going for more shots, the 48th-ranked Finn began hitting unforced errors.
When he hit a backhand out to give Murray breakpoint at 2-4 in the fourth set, Nieminen dashed his racket to the ground and stamped on it. His next action was a double fault and Murray found himself serving for the match.
Though Nieminen saved one matchpoint with a winning service return, Murray hit a service winner on the second and will now play Colombian Santiago Giraldo, who knocked out 25th seed Bernard Tomic of Australia 6-4 6-1 6-3.
Murray said his problem was probably a back spasm and, with the sanction of his physiotherapist, he planned to play on.
‘I’m not doing myself any actual damage by playing with what I have,’ he told a news conference. ‘I have had all the best advice from some of the top surgeons and physios. I`m confident that I`m doing the right thing.’
BDST: 1732 HRS, June 01, 2012
Edited by: Manoz Halder, Newsroom Editor
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