Andy Murray vs. Radek Stepanek: Score and Reaction from 2016 French Open

Gianni VerschuerenFeatured ColumnistMay 23, 2016

PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 24:  Andy Murray of Great Britain reacts during the Men's Singles first round match against Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic on day three of the 2016 French Open at Roland Garros on May 24, 2016 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Andy Murray survived an early onslaught from Radek Stepanek in his first-round clash of the 2016 French Open, losing the first two sets before bouncing back to win 3-6, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3 7-5.

Murray dropped the first two sets before finding his best form, winning six games in a row to take the third. With the light fading quickly, play continued into the fourth set, where Murray pressed his advantage and set himself up well before seeing out the win when play resumed on Tuesday.

As Eurosport UK shared, John McEnroe thought the favourable draw meant Murray's chances of winning this year's French Open were better than ever entering this contest:

Tennis.com's Matt Cronin had a similar opinion, although Murray's first-round matchup didn't seem particularly easy:

Stepanek immediately took Murray to deuce in his first service game, using a smart drop shot to get the Scot out of position, and he got to the net with some success early.

The veteran earned his first break chance in the following game, and Murray handed him the advantage with a double-fault.

The New York Times' Ben Rothenberg doubted whether the Czech could keep up his strong play, however:

But Stepanek showed few signs of weakness in the first set. While Murray's serve game improved, with the Scot firing multiple aces, he couldn't find any success in the return game. Stepanek established his base early in the rallies and was rarely troubled on serve, and he broke Murray's serve again to seal the set.

The Scotsman came out firing in the second set, however, grabbing his first break of the match immediately with powerful forehand shots.

PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 23:  Radek Stepanek of Czech Republic reacts during the Men's Singles first round match against Andy Murray of Great Britain on day two of the 2016 French Open at Roland Garros on May 23, 2016 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Dennis Grombk
Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images

Stepanek took his time returning to the court during the break and seemed to have problems with his contact lens, but whatever he did worked, as he broke back to tie things up at 1-1 in the second set after Murray fired a backhand into the net.

While Murray increased the pressure in the rallies with his power game, Stepanek's decision to keep advancing to the net disturbed all of the tactical plans Murray had for the return game. His opponent started getting visibly frustrated and even received a warning from the umpire for an obscenity at one point.

The Wall Street Journal's Tom Perrotta didn't like his demeanor at all:

Stepanek chose that exact time to press his advantage, grabbing another break and taking a 2-0 lead in sets with an ace.

But Murray's emotions seemed to come to his aid early in the third set, as he held serve comfortably and broke for love in the second game, letting out several loud screams to celebrate almost every point.

Christophe Ena/Associated Press

He pressed his advantage to push his lead to 3-0 with another ace, and momentum shifted completely. Stepanek now started arguing with the umpire, asking for the match to be stopped because of the fading light.

His complaints fell on deaf ears, however, and Murray pushed on, taking the final three games of the set in a matter of minutes. Per MailOnline's Stuart Fraser, Stepanek used every trick in the book to stall:

The Daily Mirror's Liam Canning was impressed with Murray's resurgence:

Stepanek went for a shirt change after the officials finished their debate, but play continued. Murray held serve to win his seventh straight game, and another break followed, with Stepanek firing a backhand into the net.

The Czech couldn't take advantage of a break chance in the next game, and with the light quickly fading, he once again urged the officials to stop the match. He finally halted Murray's run in the following game, and after the fifth game of the fourth set, even Murray told the umpire it was getting too dark to play, via Live Tennis:

The final game of Monday's session went to Stepanek, who held serve thanks to a lucky bounce off the net before the umpire gave in to the demands of both players and suspended the match.

Rothenberg believed the break would favour Stepanek more, as the veteran tired as the match wore on but had the chance to recharge his batteries:

Restarting the match 4-2 up in the fourth set, Murray wasted little time in forcing a decider with two straightforward service games.

From 40-0 down, Murray forced his way to deuce in Stepanek's first service game, but an outstanding drop shot helped rescue the hold for the Czech, per Eurosport UK:

The pair pushed one another hard with a number of thrilling rallies, with Stepanek making use of a serve-and-volley tactic similar to the one he used on Monday.

There was little to separate them as the match followed service, though it was ostensibly Murray pressuring his opponent's serve.

Stepanek held on with remarkable resilience, though, per Eurosport UK:

Despite his best efforts—he got to within two points of winning the match at 5-4the pressure eventually told, and the second seed grabbed the all-important break at 5-5 after several careless errors from Stepanek.

It then fell to Murray to serve for the match, and despite double-faulting on his first match point, he was able to claim the second when Stepanek netted a volley.

The Scot will face Mathias Bourgue in the next round and should advance with little trouble; however, he'll have to cut out the mental errors that plagued him during the first two sets here, or he could be in for another scare.