PARIS- Fourth seed Andy Murray, grimacing in pain, battled his way into the third round of the French Open on Thursday 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 – his best result at the claycourt grand slam – but 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 sitting down.
Nieminen, however, was unable to take advantage and as the match progressed, and Murray loosened up and started going for more shots, 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 matchpoint with a winning service return, Murray hit a service winner on the second and will now play Colombian Santiago Giraldo, who knocked out 25th seed Bernard Tomic of Australia 6-4 6-1 6-3.
Nieminen said he was disappointed with himself, adding: “I feel like I had him – I felt that I should have taken the second set. Overall I’m not happy the way I played.”
Tsonga had gone off court on Wednesday evening level at one set all and 1-1 in the third with Stebe when rain fell on Roland Garros for the first time this week.
The Frenchman started Thursday 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.
Tsonga was delighted that rain had cut short Wednesday’s play, saying he had had trouble concentrating.
“It was children’s day yesterday – there was a lot of noise, and I was getting a bit crazy,” he told a news conference. “So I think it was a good idea the match was stopped yesterday and I could start again in far better conditions for me.”
Sixth-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer had a straightforward, 6-3 6-3 6-2 win over French player Benoit Paire and will now play either 27th seed Mikhail Youzhny of Russia or Dutchman Robin Haase.
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 Pole Urszula Radwanska 6-1 6-3.
Local favourite Arnaud Clement, the oldest man in the draw at 34, bade goodbye to Roland Garros after 15 appearances here with an emotional ceremony on court after his 3-6 7-6 0-6 6-2 6-1 defeat by Belgian lucky loser David Goffin.
Former Davis Cup captain Guy Forget and French tennis federation president Jean Gachassin presented Clement with a glass cube containing a sample of the Roland Garros clay.