Murray, who missed the tournament last year through injury, began well but got bogged down in heavy conditions and dropped the third set before recovering to win 6-1 6-4 3-6 6-3.
The British number one will now play Australian Marinko Matosevic or German-Jamaican Dustin Brown in the second round. Said Murray: “He’a a tough player. He’s aggressive, he puts you on the back foot early. I tried to be patient. It was quite windy, especially at the start. I didn’t go for my shots too much and finally got the win.”
Fifth seed David Ferrer made his return to Court Philippe Chatrier a year after reaching his first grand slam final and was very comfortable in a 6-4 6-3 6-1 win over Igor Sijsling.
Twelfth seed Richard Gasquet, who had not played a match since March because of a back injury, eased his way into the tournament with a 6-2 6-1 7-5 victory over Bernard Tomic.
French favourite Gael Monfils gave the crowd on Chatrier what they wanted with a 6-2 4-6 6-4 6-2 victory over Victor Hanescu but Michael Llodra has made his last appearance at Roland Garros as a singles player. The 34-year-old, who will retire at the end of the season, lost 6-2 7-6 (7/4) 7-6 (7/3) to 24th seed Fernando Verdasco.
Two seeds exited through injury, Tommy Haas and Nicolas Almagro both quitting mid match, while Lleyton Hewitt was beaten 3-6 6-2 6-1 6-4 by Argentina’s Carlos Berlocq.
The second round begins today, with Roger Federer following Rafael Nadal out to Suzanne Lenglen for his match against Diego Schwartzman while Novak Djokovic takes on France’s Jeremy Chardy on Chatrier.
In the women’s singles, second seed Li Na’s 7-5 3-6 6-1 loss to Kristina Mladenovic coupled with Stan Wawrinka’s defeat by Guillermo Garcia-Lopez on Monday meant it was the first time in history that the two Australian Open champions have lost in the first round in Paris.
Fourth seed Simona Halep had no such problems, the Romanian narrowly missing out on a double bagel on her way to a 6-0 6-2 victory over Russia’s Alisa Kleybanova.
Former champion Ana Ivanovic, seeded 11th, is another woman in form. She was a 6-1 6-3 winner over rising French star Caroline Garcia.