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Andy Murray hits back hard to send a message to his doubters

 

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Fighting fit: Andy Murray in action during his four-set opening-round win

Fighting fit: Andy Murray in action during his four-set opening-round win

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Fighting fit: Andy Murray in action during his four-set opening-round win

Andy Murray answered doubts about his form and fitness with a four-set win over Andrey Kuznetsov in the opening round of the French Open.

It seemed like it could be a very difficult afternoon for the World No.1 when Russian Kuznetsov, ranked 73, won the second set.

Murray looked fractious, but he moved ahead early in the third set and got better and better, wrapping up a 6-4 4-6 6-2 6-0 win in two hours and 32 minutes.

The result was a major boost to British fortunes after Johanna Konta's shock loss to Hsieh Su-wei on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Murray said: "He goes for his shots, plays very aggressive, hits the ball pretty flat so he takes your time away.

"It was quite windy today. I started to feel a little bit better as the match went on but I expected a tough match because he's played well during the clay-court season."

Given his build-up, with only four wins on clay all season and the heavy cold that affected him last week, it was difficult to know what to expect from Murray.

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Usually the early rounds of grand slams are expected to be smooth sailing, even if in reality they do not turn out that way.

Last year he lost the first two sets of his opening-round match against Radek Stepanek before fighting back to win in five.

The first set against Kuznetsov was a mixed bag. Murray held onto his serve having lost the opening three points of the match, then broke the Russian to lead 4-2.

And a poor game when he was serving for the set was swiftly cancelled out by a break to love.

Kuznetsov is a slight figure but can generate surprising power with his flat hitting and arrived in Paris fresh from a run to the semi-finals of the Geneva Open last week.

His clay-court season had arguably been more impressive than Murray's, and in the second set the Scot's doubts began to surface.

He dropped further behind the baseline and allowed Kuznetsov to dictate while clapping and grinning sarcastically towards his box. Ivan Lendl, of course, remained stony-faced.

From 1-2, Kuznetsov won four games in a row and, although Murray retrieved one break, the Russian served out the set at the second attempt to level the match.

The early stages of the third were key to deciding the match, and it was the sort of miraculous recovery Murray has made a speciality of during his career that got him back on track.

With Kuznetsov serving at 1-0, the Russian sent a lob over Murray's head that looked certain to win the point only for the top seed to somehow claw it back over his shoulder, with his surprised opponent netting the resulting smash.

Murray broke serve and did not look back, growing in confidence and toying with Kuznetsov as he raced through the fourth set.

The Scot will next face Slovakian Martin Klizan, who was involved in a bad-tempered encounter with French wild card Laurent Lokoli on Court 14.

Lokoli was unhappy with what he saw as Klizan exaggerating his calf injury before recovering to win 7-6 (7/4) 6-3 4-6 0-6 6-4.

The umpire almost had to physically separate the pair at one change of ends and Lokoli then refused to shake Klizan's hand, sending him away with a dramatic hand gesture.

"For me, when you're on a tennis court, you have to be respectful," said Lokoli. "What he did, it's not respectful. I always respect my opponent. I was angry."

Klizan offered a 'no comment' to most questions about the situation, saying only of the non-handshake: "It was his decision. I accept it."


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