World No.1 opens his Roland Garros account by disposing of Russian challenger 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, 6-0 to set up clash with world No50 Martin Klizan.
Andy Murray recovered from going walkabout in the second set to win his opening match at the French Open – and give his flagging confidence a needed boost.
The world No.1 entered the claycourt Grand Slam in terrible form and fitness after winning only four matches on the red dirt this season and then suffering from flu last week.
The Scot showed some of the form which got him to the Roland Garros final last year when he took the first set off world No 73 Andrey Kuznetsov in only 42 minutes.
But the Olympic champion immediately dropped his serve in the opening game of the second set as his attention wandered. He also constantly chuntered away at his player’s box in frustration where his head coach was watching his first match since the Australian Open.
His former coach Mark Petchey, now an ITV commentator, said: “There has been a weakening of his resolve in the second set”
Murray slipped 5-2 behind and despite getting one break of serve back, the Russian wrapped up the set with a forehand cross-court winner which hit the line.
World No 1 Anqelique Kerber and British No 1 Jo Konta were already out before Murray walked out for the third match on Court Philippe Chatrier – the Centre Court.
The men’s No.1 seed at Roland Garros has only ever lost once when Stefan Edberg went down to Sergi Bruguera in 1990 but another shock was on.
But Murray then switched back on and broke to lead 2-0 after showing amazing defensive skills, including launching a towering retrieval shot after he was lobbed at the net. The British No 1 raced to the third set in only 33 minutes and did not drop a game in the quick-fire fourth as he won 6-4 4-6 6-2 6-0 in two hours and 32 minutes.
He will play world No 50 Martin Klizan of Slovakia in the second round on Thursday.
A smiling Murray said: “He goes for his shots. He plays very aggressive. He tries to play close to the baseline and take your time away.
“But it was windy out here today and that makes it more difficult. I started to feel a little better as the match went on. I have very good memories from Paris last year – I got the final here and then became world No 1 at Bercy – and I will try to do the same this year.”