ANDY Murray shrugged off his slow start to the clay-court season by reaching the last 16 of the Madrid Open with a battling win over Germany’s Florian Mayer.
Rebounding from his disappointing loss to Stanislas Wawrinka in Monte Carlo last month, Murray edged Mayer over two tie-break sets to set up a third-round clash with Gilles Simon.
The Scot was pushed to the limit by the world No 26, saving five set points in a marathon first set tie-break which he eventually won 13-11.
An early break by Mayer gave the German a 4-1 advantage in the second, but Murray summoned extra reserves of strength to break back in the seventh game of the set with a superb pass down the line.
The 29-year-old Mayer, who lost his only previous meeting with Murray in Rome in 2011, responded well by holding to love, then saving two break points at 5-5 which would have given Murray the chance to serve for the match.
But there was no repeat of the tight first set tie-break second time round, as Murray charged into a 5-1 lead and eventually converted his second match point at 6-2 with a backhand pass for a satisfying 7-6 (13/11), 7-6 (7/2) win.
Afterwards, the Scot said he had struggled with the altitude in Madrid, which is 2,180 feet above sea level, and found it hard to breathe at the end of the first set where “there were so many long points”.
The Scot also said Mayer’s array of shots had made it difficult by varying the pace constantly. “It’s hard to explain, but if you’re playing someone that plays with a nice rhythm it’s a lot easier to breathe during the points,” Murray said.
Defending champion Roger Federer looked comfortable on clay in his first match in two months, easing past Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-3 to reach the third round. The Swiss had taken a break after losing to Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals at Indian Wells.
Tommy Haas of Germany and Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland were among other seeds to advance, while Richard Gasquet of France lost 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 to Daniel Gimeno-Traver of Spain.
In the women’s event, defending champion Serena Williams moved her title defence into the third round after beating Lourdes Dominguez Lino of Spain 6-2, 7-5.
Marion Bartoli, of France, overcame a fall to beat qualifier Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor of Spain 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.