Gritty Murray downs Almagro
Andy Murray made a winning return to the clay for the first time in nearly a year after battling past Nicolas Almagro 6-1 1-6 6-4 to reach the third round of the Madrid Open.
The Scot cruised through the opening set, but went onto lose six games in a row after breaking the Almagro serve in the first game of the second.
Serve was dominant in the third until a backhand error from Almagro gifted Murray the vital break on match point in one hour and 46 minutes to set up a third round meeting with Colombian Santiago Giraldo.
"It was a tough match," the British No 1 told Sky Sports. "He was just going for bombs on every shot. He was serving huge and ripping the ball from the back of the court.
"I got a bit tentative when he broke me back at the beginning of the second set. If I had got ahead and got the hold, I would have been ok, but wasn't to be but hung on at the end."
"It's obviously a surface I have struggled with the last couple of years physically, so I just need to make sure I stay on top of my recovery and warm up properly all the time."The quicker surface at the Caja Magica seemed to help a revitalised Murray who made the perfect start by breaking Almagro twice before moving comfortably into a 5-0 lead.
Almagro - conqueror of Rafael Nadal in Barcelona last month - looked a little worse for wear after needing 11 match points to see off Kazakh qualifier Andrey Golubev in the previous round.
The 28-year-old took an injury time out due to a left foot problem before the start of the sixth game - which he eventually held - but it was the Scot who easily sealed the set on his next service game.
An athletic looking Murray was moving well across the dirt and showcasing a fine array of shot selection which had Almagro chasing shadows at times.
However, after Murray broke in the opening game of the second set, the two-time Grand Slam champion then suffered a major wobble.
In a remarkable turnaround in fortunes former Top 10 player Almagro conjured the mental resolve to win the next six games in a row to take the contest into a deciding set.
Murray, whose last appearance at a ATP clay event came in Rome last May, regained his composure and consistency to stay with the firepower of the Spaniard.
At 5-4, seventh-seeded Murray opened up match point on his opponent's serve and he took it when a wild backhand landed in the tramlines.
It was Murray's first win against a Spanish opponent on the surface since he defeated Tommy Robredo five years ago in the Spanish capital.