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Murray eyes deep run after epic battle

China Daily | Updated: 2022-01-20 09:23
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Andy Murray reacts during his Australian Open first-round victory over Georgia's Nikoloz Basilashvili on Tuesday. AFP

Five years and five long sets later, five-time Australian Open runner-up Andy Murray finally won another match at the season-opening Grand Slam tournament.

The former No 1-ranked Murray, playing thanks to a wild-card invitation as he continues his career comeback from hip operations and thoughts of retirement, beat 21st-seeded Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-1, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-4 on Tuesday to reach the second round at Melbourne Park.

He lost a five-setter in the first round in 2019-a match he, and everyone else, thought might have been his last in Australia-after missing the 2018 edition with an injury. He missed the 2020 tournament with a pelvic injury and last year's event because of COVID-19.

"It's been a tough three, four years. Put in a lot of work to get back here," Murray said in his post-match TV interview at John Cain Arena, which was formerly known as Hisense and is parochially referred to as the People's Court. "I've played on this court many times, the atmosphere is incredible. This is the one where I thought I'd played my last.

"Amazing to be back, winning a five-set battle like that. Couldn't ask for more."

Murray beat Basilashvili in a three-hour three-setter last week in Sydney, where he reached the final of the tuneup tournament. This one went almost four hours.

When the 34-year-old Murray clinched the win on his third match point, he turned to the back of the court, closed his eyes and pumped his fists to celebrate.

After walking over to his courtside chair and dropping his racket, he returned to the court, punched the air and yelled "Let's go!"

"I think winning matches like today and competing against guys that are around 20-25 in the rankings, yeah, I'm proud of that," said Murray, currently ranked No 113.

"It's not easy. I put a lot of work and effort in. Even since the operation, I've had various issues as well. Kept going and, yeah, days like today make it worthwhile."

It was Murray's 49th win in an Australian Open singles match, moving him ahead of Andre Agassi and Ivan Lendl into fifth place in the all-time standings. According to the International Tennis Federation, it's the most match wins at a Grand Slam tournament without winning the title, surpassing Lendl's 48 at Wimbledon.

Regardless, match win No 50 in Australia is the immediate priority. He next plays Taro Daniel, a qualifier from Japan.

"I think there are things in my game I can do better," said Murray, who lost the 2010 final to Roger Federer and four others to Novak Djokovic. "Would love to have a deep run here, if possible.


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