Andy Murray was not entirely convincing in his start to the French Open despite a 6-4 6-1 6-3 victory over qualifier Eric Prodon on Tuesday afternoon. The world number four rarely looked at ease with either himself or his game and his serve was broken in both the first and third sets, but in the end Murray simply had too much quality for his unheralded opponent.
Prodon has won only one match on the ATP World Tour in his entire career but he has no shortage of experience on clay and has 21 titles to his name on the surface at Futures and Challenger level.
Indeed, the 29-year-old is known as the Roger Federer of the Futures for his success on that circuit, and he looked like he might be able to cause Murray a few problems when he forced a break point in the opening game. The fourth seed negotiated that little hurdle, though, and in the fourth game his greater weight of shot proved too much for the Frenchman, allowing Murray, who winced when he was introduced to the crowd as “l’Anglais”, to move into a 3-1 lead.
Another break point was saved with an ace in the seventh game but Prodon was coming more into the match, troubling Murray with his single-handed backhand in particular. With the Scot serving for the set at 5-3, a combination of a double-fault and pinpoint drop shot from Prodon allowed the Parisian to break back, but his comeback was short-lived as an angry Murray responded with another break to clinch the set.
The draw certainly appeared to pave the way for the British number one to at least match his best performance at Roland Garros, a quarter-final in 2009, with another qualifier Simone Bolelli next up and no real threats until Jurgen Melzer in the last eight.
The second set adopted the same pattern as the first, with Prodon, who faced Andre Agassi in the first round here in 2002, competing well but always being kept at arm’s length. Again it was the fourth game that provided Murray with the break, at the third time of asking, as a scrambling Prodon sent a backhand long.
The Frenchman now cut a fairly dejected figure and a thumping forehand return gave Murray a second break, which he followed up by serving out the set to love in 25 minutes. Murray finished the second set hitting winners almost at will, not that the fairly sparse crowd would have known it from the Scot’s demeanour, which was typically sullen. But his level dropped again at the start of the third, on his serve in particular, and he allowed Prodon a break point in the second game, which the Frenchman should have taken only to miss a routine forehand.
More errors followed from Murray and this time Prodon did take his opportunity, another drop shot outfoxing the 24-year-old as he slipped 3-1 behind.
Just as in the opener, though, the underdog played a poor game to hand his advantage straight back, and that proved the crucial moment as Murray made it five games in a row to seal victory in an hour and 44 minutes.