Andy Murray rallied to win from two sets down for the ninth time, advancing to the second round of the French Open by beating qualifier Radek Stepanek 3-6, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3, 7-5 Tuesday.
While Murray needed two days to progress, nine-time champion Rafael Nadal had a much easier time against big-serving Sam Groth, losing only three games in a 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 win.
In the women’s draw, Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber lost in the first round. Hampered by a left shoulder injury, the third-seeded Kerber was beaten by 58th-ranked Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
Francesca Schiavone, the 2010 French Open champion, was also eliminated, losing to Kristina Mladenovic 6-2, 6-4.
Stepanek, the oldest man in the field at 37, hit 57 winners in his suspenseful encounter on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Murray was leading 4-2 in the fourth set when play was suspended Monday because of darkness. He was twice two points from losing while serving and trailing 5-4 in the fifth. But he held there, then broke Stepanek and served it out after wasting his first match point with a double-fault.
“It’s unbelievable what he is doing,” Murray said. “At 37 years old, coming out and fighting like that. I don’t expect to be doing that myself at that age.”
Murray had rallied from two sets down twice before at Roland Garros, against Richard Gasquet in the first round six years ago and then to beat Viktor Troicki in the fourth round in 2011.
With Aljaz Bedene, Kyle Edmund and Murray through, there are three British male players in the second round at Roland Garros for first time since 1975.
Also advancing in the men’s draw were seventh-seeded Tomas Berdych, No. 13 Dominic Thiem, No. 15 John Isner and No. 20 Bernard Tomic.
Kerber received treatment on her shoulder during a changeover as she trailed 3-0 in the deciding set. The left-handed Kerber then briefly left the court and returned to win her service game but could not break back and lost the match.
Kerber arrived in Paris on the back of early losses in both Madrid and Rome. Last week, she pulled out of the Nuremberg tournament because of her shoulder injury.
“It’s getting worse and worse, but I hope it’s not too bad,” Kerber said.
It was the second time in three years that the Australian Open women’s champion lost in the first round at Roland Garros — the same thing happened to Li Na in 2014. Chris O’Neil (1978), Barbara Jordan (1979) and Lindsey Davenport (2000) are the other reigning Australian Open champions who lost in the opening round on the Parisian clay.
Schiavone was surprised to receive a standing ovation after her loss and blamed French Open organizers for announcing she competed at Roland Garros for the last time of her career.
“So Roland Garros announced my retirement, but I didn’t,” Schiavone said. “So you can stand up all of you and go back to work in the office because I didn’t say that. I will announce when I will want to stop.”
Novak Djokovic later began his bid to win a fourth straight major title against 95th-ranked Yen-hsun Lu of Taiwan. Also, Serena Williams will face 77th-ranked Magdalena Rybarikova as she starts the defense of her title.
The weather should remain dry, good news for tournament organizers who are facing a backlog of matches because of rain during the first two days.