Andy Murray: I'm still on good terms with coach Amelie Mauresmo
Never rule out Andy Murray. For the ninth time, the 29-year-old Scot dug himself out of a hole from two sets down to reach the second round of the French Open, but only after he had been desperately close to defeat.
Murray twice went within two points of going out of the tournament before beating Radek Stepanek 3-6 3-6 6-0 6-3 7-5.
"It could turn out to be one of the biggest wins of my career," a relieved Murray, who will face World No.165 Mathias Bourgue in the second round, said afterwards. "To get through that match was really, really important. It could easily have gone the other way."
Murray was probably referring to the fact that, given his recent clay-court form, this could be his best chance of winning the French Open. However, it was also apparent that the last few days have been difficult for him. His pre-tournament preparations were not helped by the bad weather and he described the win over Stepanek, spread over two days, as "pretty stressful".
The World No.2 has also had to cope with the fall-out from interviews given to the French media in recent days by Amelie Mauresmo, his former coach, and by Murray himself. They have generated interest in his on-court behaviour and his shouting and ranting in the general direction of his entourage.
Mauresmo, whose split with Murray was announced a fortnight ago, said in her interview that the Scot was a "complex" character and that the difference between his persona on and off the court was "disconcerting".
Murray, in a separate interview, admitted that he sometimes felt embarrassed when he saw TV pictures of his on-court behaviour. However, he also said that he usually played better when he expressed his emotions on court and expected his entourage to support him through those difficult moments.
After his victory over Stepanek, Murray was keen to point out that his interview had been conducted the day before the publication of Mauresmo's and that in no way had he been responding to her comments. He insisted they had not fallen out and still had a good relationship.
Murray also stressed that when they agreed to end their relationship, his on-court behaviour had not been discussed. He reiterated that the reason for the split had been the fact that she was unable to devote enough time to coaching him.
Murray said: "When we were working together we discussed many things, and there were times when, like with all of my coaches, they said: 'You need to concentrate more on the match. Stop directing your frustration at the box and being distracted'. But to say that's why we stopped working together is untrue."
Asked to respond to Mauresmo's comment that he is a "complex" character, Murray said: "Away from the court, probably not. On the court, yes. When I'm losing I get very frustrated. When I'm winning, I'm happier. I don't know if that's complex.
"There are also some good attributes that I have on the court, too. In my opinion I displayed them in abundance today and yesterday. I fought extremely hard from a very, very difficult position. Yes, I was getting frustrated, but I gave everything to try to win and got myself out of a situation that not all players would have been able to get themselves out of. I fight through to the end in all of the matches."
Murray had indeed shown many of his best battling qualities in winning a match at Roland Garros from two sets down for the third time. He had completed half of his recovery mission the previous evening, when he took the third set and led 4-2 in the fourth before play was called off because of bad light.
Stepanek, nevertheless, kept Murray on his toes with his intelligent mixture of crafty drop shots, disguised net approaches and exquisitely timed volleys. When he left the court at the end of the match Murray joined in the crowd's applause.
Having saved two break points in the first game of the day, Murray served out to take the fourth set and level the match. However, the fifth set was tight.
When Murray served to stay in the match at 4-5 he twice went within two points of defeat but held his nerve. A double fault, a netted backhand and two netted forehands presented Murray with the chance to serve out.
In the following game Murray went 40-30 up, only to hit a double fault on his first match point. On his second, Stepanek netted to hand the Scot victory.
Britain's Aljaz Bedene, who had lost in the first round on his only two previous appearances, reached the second round by beating Austria's Gerald Melzer 4-6 6-3 6-4, 6-4. He will now face Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta.
"It wasn't easy," Bedene said. "The first set wasn't the best, but then I played my game more. In general, I'm happy."
With Kyle Edmund having won the previous evening, three British men are through to the second round for the first time since 1975.