Andy Murray remains in contention to reach a maiden French Open final but continues to navigate the opening week at Roland Garros without displaying the assurance of a two-time grand slam champion after he was taken to five sets for a second time in as many rounds by unknown French player Mathias Bourgue in Paris. The British number one was staring down the barrel of a premature exit from the second major of the season at two sets to one down to the 22-year-old, playing beyond the first round of a grand slam for the first time in his career, but the Brit eventually prevailed 6-2 2-6 4-6 6-2 6-3.
Murray needed five sets in his opening match of the tournament against former world number eight Radek Stepanek, but few could have expected another close shave against wildcard Bourgue – whose career earnings stand at a modest $161,286 [£109,796]. The British number one blew away the cobwebs after his first round match had straddled the last two days to take the opening set and a break in the second to put himself seemingly on course for a routine passage into the third round.
But Bourgue had other ideas and reeled off eight games in a row to square the match take a grip of the third. The world number 164 took a two sets-to-one lead as Murray grew increasingly agitated, while his French opponent was combining fine groundstokes with deft drop shots that were bamboozling the reigning Olympic singles champion.
The French capital crowd grew ever hopeful of an incredible upset but once Bourgue stepped into the unknown in the first fourth set of his career, he looked like a fish out of water. Murray broke in the opening game of the set on his way to levelling the match and turned the screw to take the decider 6-3, despite being broken as he came out to serve for the match at the first time of asking.
"He was excellent," said Murray, who remains without a coach since his split with Amelie Mauresmo. "He was the one dictating a lot of the points. He's going to have a fantastic future. This is the first time we've played each other but he was very good. I was thinking what happened? I was up 6-2, 2-0 and he started to play magnificent. I just tried to fight through to the end. It's been a tough few days and I'm going to have to recover well."
In round three Murray will face big-serving 37-year-old Ivo Karlovic, the oldest man into the last 32 of a grand slam since 1991. Having spent seven hours on court across his first two matches it is yet to be seen what the physical and mental demands of the last three days will take out of the Scot, ahead of what are expected to be greater challenges.
Kyle Edmund was unable to join Murray and remain on course for an all-British clash in the fourth round, after he was ousted by 15th seed John Isner in straight sets. Slovakian-born Aljaz Bedene is the only other Briton in the draw, facing Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta for a place in the third round at a slam for the first time – where world number one Novak Djokovic is likely to lie in wait.