By Martyn Herman
PARIS (Reuters) - Andy Murray survived a second close shave at the French Open on Wednesday, but his path towards what he hopes will be a maiden title in Paris is becoming so circuitous he may soon find himself hacking through trees in the nearby Bois de Boulogne.
While defending champion Stanislas Wawrinka, fifth seed Kei Nishikori, Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza, eased into the third round on Wednesday, second seed Murray took the long road again.
The Scot spent Monday and Tuesday figuring a way past unorthodox 37-year-old Czech Radek Stepanek, extricating himself from two sets down to scrape through in five.
This time it was little known 22-year-old French wildcard Mathias Borgue, playing only his second grand slam match, who led the former U.S. Open and Wimbledon champion astray.
Initially overwhelmed, Borgue recovered from a 6-2 2-0 deficit to take control in astonishing fashion, reeling off eight games in a row and forging into a two-sets-to-one lead.
When he pummeled a backhand winner down the line to take the third set Murray was stunned and the partisan Court Philippe Chatrier crowd were in full cry.
Murray was rocking, but saved three break points at the start of the fourth set and gradually seized back control to prevail 6-2 2-6 4-6 6-2 6-3 in three hours 34 minutes.
"I led 6-2 2-0 then he started playing unbelievably and I was finding it hard to win points, let alone games," Murray, a three-times semi-finalist here, said on court after sportingly joining in the applause for Borgue, France's 16th best player.
"You can't play too many matches like this if you want to go far in this tournament. I hope to win the next one a little bit faster."
Murray's opponent in the third round, Ivo Karlovic, was involved in the day's other compelling drama.
The big-serving Croatian, also 37, beat Australian wildcard Jordan Thompson 6-7(2) 6-3 7-6(3) 6-7(4) 12-10 in the longest match of the tournament so far to become the oldest man to reach the third round of a slam since Jimmy Connors in 1991.
"It's the only time when being old is okay," 27th seed Karlovic, who has boomed down 72 aces in two rounds, said of his milestone victory.
Quite what he and Murray will cook up on Friday is anyone's guess, but expect the unexpected.
Like Murray, third seed Wawrinka suffered a first-round fright in a five-setter against Lukas Rosol.
He was still not at his best on Wednesday against Japan's Taro Daniel, but having saved two set points in the opening tie break he won 7-6(7) 6-3 6-4.
"If you look at the first two matches, for sure I'm not playing my best tennis, but I know I have my best tennis in me," the 31-year-old, who faces Frenchman Jeremy Chardy next, said.
Nishikori's progress has been impressive so far and he was too good for Russian Andrey Kuznetsov, winning 6-3 6-3 6-3.
After a flurry of falling seeds in the women's first round, the top names flourished as the sun finally appeared in Paris.
Romania's Halep, runner-up to Maria Sharapova in 2014, took a while to tame Kazakhstan's Zarina Diyas to win 7-6(5) 6-2.
Fourth seed Muguruza, bidding to become the first Spanish woman to win the title since Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in 1998, thrashed France's Myrtille Georges 6-2 6-0.
Czech Lucie Safarova, finalist last year, beat Swiss Viktorija Golubic 6-2 6-2, and 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova showed she is still a force by beating Britain's Heather Watson.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by John Stonestreet)