Unseeded Frenchman Gasquet used his backhand to run the fourth-seeded Murray all over Court Suzanne Lenglen and build a two-set lead with a break in the third.
Just as he did at Wimbledon two years ago, when he also trailed by two sets against Gasquet, Murray fought back to win 4-6, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-2, 6-1.
“It’s obviously not the best position to be in, but it does help when you’ve come back against him in the past from a similar situation,” Murray, 23, said in a news conference after the match.
Fitness and mental strength were deciding factors in a match that lasted more than four hours in temperatures as high as 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) at Roland Garros, the players said.
“I was really, really tired,” said Murray, who first faced former top-10 player Gasquet as a 13-year-old.
Murray hasn’t exited a Grand Slam in the first round since the 2008 Australian Open, where he was runner-up to Roger Federer this year. The 23-year-old Gasquet, who missed last year’s French Open because he was serving a 10- week suspension after testing positive for cocaine, has never been past the third round at Roland Garros.
“It’s hard in a Grand Slam against Murray,” Gasquet said in a news conference. “He’s always fighting.”
Gasquet was three games from a second-round meeting with Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina after he broke Murray’s serve for a 3-2 lead in the third set. Instead, the Scot broke back in the next game.
“The game at 3-2 in the third set, that’s the most important game in the match for me, and I missed it,” Gasquet said.
Before the start of the fifth set, Gasquet received treatment on his left knee. He was injured last weekend in Nice, France, while securing his first ATP tournament win in almost three years.
Gasquet, a 2007 Wimbledon semifinalist, has now lost nine of his past 10 five-set matches, with his only victory coming against Andy Roddick at Wimbledon three years ago. Murray, by contrast, has won seven of his past eight five- setters.
Their fourth-round match at Wimbledon two years ago wasn’t playing on Gasquet’s mind, the Frenchman said.
“I was very close in Wimbledon,” the 68th-ranked Gasquet said. “It was the same here. During the third, I had no energy after it.”