World No1 Sir Andy Murray was relieved to banish his clay-court troubles and avoid a French Open meltdown by beating Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov in the first round at Roland Garros.
Had Murray lost it would have been the first time in the open era that both top seeds had exited a grand slam in the opening round after Angelique Kerber’s demise on Sunday. The 30-year-old, however, prevailed 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, 6-0 against the world No73.
Murray, last year’s beaten finalist, has endured a difficult season which has been blighted by a lack of form, injury and illness, while he has suffered defeats to Albert Ramos Vinolas, Dominic Thiem, Borna Coric and Fabio Fognini in his last four tournaments.
“It definitely got better as it went on. I was hitting the ball better when defending,” said Murray. “It was a decent start considering how I’ve played in the build up. It was good towards the end. I’ll try to keep that going. I wanted to get through that today.”
Three-time grand slam winner Murray will now face Slovakia’s Martin Klizan and will be joined in round two by fellow Briton Kyle Edmund, who beat Portugal’s Gastao Elias 6-3, 6-2, 7-5.
“I controlled a lot of the match,” said British No2 Edmund. “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 that I was able to regain my concentration and finish the match off in straight sets.”
There was no such joy for British No1 Johanna Konta in the women’s draw, however, as she suffered a shock defeat to world No109 Hsieh Su-Wei. Seventh-seed Konta succumbed 1-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4.
Konta is yet to win a match in the main draw at Roland Garros, while she boasts just four clay-court wins at WTA main draw level in her entire career.
“My expectations are never results-orientated,” she said. “In that sense, whether I’ve lost first round or third round or quarters, I do my best to not judge myself on that aspect.”