Gritty Murray downs Almagro

  • Last Updated: May 7 2014, 21:24 BST

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.

Andy Murray overcame Nicolas Almagro in Madrid in three sets
Andy Murray overcame Nicolas Almagro in Madrid in three sets

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.