Fourth seed Andy Murray, grimacing in pain, battled his way into the third round of the French Open yesterday by defeating Finn Jarkko Nieminen 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 despite back problems.
The Briton was 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.
Murray was a semi-finalist last year, but he 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 sit down.
However, Nieminen was unable to take advantage and as the match progressed Murray loosened up and started going for more shots, while 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 match point with a winning service return, Murray hit a service winner on the second.
Tsonga had gone off court on Wednesday evening level at one set all and 1-1 in the third with Stebe.
The Frenchman started yesterday with a break and needed less than an hour to see off Stebe and set up an appointment with either Serbian 28th seed Viktor Troicki or Italian Fabio Fognini.
Sixth-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer had a straightforward 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 win over Benoit Paire.
Women’s fourth seed Petra Kvitova, who has had a year marked by illness and injury, was in fine form on the Suzanne Lenglen court, swiftly beating Poland’s Urszula Radwanska 6-1, 6-3.
Local favorite Arnaud Clement bade goodbye to Roland Garros after 15 appearances with an emotional ceremony on court after his 3-6, 7-6 (7/2), 0-6, 6-2, 6-1 defeat by Belgian David Goffin.
In the women’s doubles, Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and her partner Timea Babos exited in the second round, Italian fourth seeds Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci comfortably winning their contest 6-4, 6-2.
On Wednesday, Hsieh and Babos beat French pairing Alize Cornet and Virginie Razzano 6-3, 6-1 in the first round to set up yesterday’s match.
Also on Wednesday, after four days of play, the French Open was left without a Williams sister in the draw when former runner-up Venus joined 2002 champion Serena in making an early exit.
Venus, a seven time Grand Slam winner, but now coping with an autoimmune disease, went out tamely 6-2, 6-3 to third seed Agnieszka Radwanska.
Chan Yung-jan also exited in the second round, 26th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova defeating the final remaining Taiwanese in the singles competitions 6-4, 7-6 (7-4).
In the men’s doubles, Taiwan’s Lu Yen-hsun and Go Soeda of Japan defeated Australia’s Carsten Ball and Jamie Murray of Britain 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-3.
Additional reporting by staff writer