Tennis

Hip hip hooray! Murray wins five-set US Open thriller

Andy Murray produced an astonishing fightback to outlast Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka 4-6, 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/4), 6-4 in his long-awaited return to Grand Slam singles action in the US Open first round on Tuesday (Sept 1).

The 33-year-old Briton, contesting a singles match at a Major for the first since the 2019 Australian Open, appeared to be heading for an early exit as a fearless Nishioka outplayed him for two sets on a virtually empty Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Yet, as he has so often done throughout his career, Murray, ranked 115th in the world, simply refused to accept defeat. Desperately trying to spark himself into life, Murray recovered from a break down in the third set and saved a match-point late in the fourth.

At the start of the fifth set, he required treatment on his battered toes and again slipped a break behind before dredging his tank to finally crush 49th-ranked Nishioka’s spirit and claim victory in four hours 38 minutes.

It was Murray’s 10th win from two sets down and showed that, despite undergoing two hip surgeries, he remains one of the sport’s great warriors.

“I’m tired, my toes are the worst part, my big toes are pretty beat up,” Murray, whose emotional defeat in five sets against Roberto Bautista Agut in Melbourne in 2019 looked like ending his career, said on court.

“At the beginning, I was apprehensive about playing a long match because I’ve not played one for a while and I was sort of pacing myself. But when I was two sets down, I managed to put the afterburners on and managed to get through.”

Murray, who claimed the first of his three Grand Slam titles in New York in 2012, will have to recover quickly as his next opponent is Canadian 15th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime.

He said his first job was to try and find an ice bath.

“They have one in the locker room, but that’s supposed to be for an emergency. This is an emergency,” Murray said.

Joining him in the second round is Austrian second seed Dominic Thiem, after his opponent Spaniard Jaume Munar retired after dropping the first two sets.

Thiem, who reached his third Grand Slam final at this year’s Australian Open where he lost to Novak Djokovic, was leading 7-6 (8/6), 6-3 when Munar, who had slipped on the baseline midway through the second set, ended the match.

“I was happy with the way I was fighting, because it wasn’t easy to play him,” Thiem said during an on-court interview at the Louis Armstrong Stadium.

“The courts are very different this year, the court seemed to be slow inside. It was a little bit windy, but we had some good rallies. I felt I was playing good. I played a good tie-break, which was pretty comfortable, then I’m sorry for what has happened.”

Up next for Thiem will be a showdown with India’s Sumit Nagal, who beat American Bradley Klahn 6-1, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.

Thiem has never faced Nagal before, but remembers clearly what his next opponent is capable of having watched him in his Grand Slam debut last year in New York where he took the opening set against Roger Federer before going on to lose the match.

“I actually saw the full match. He was playing well,” said Thiem.

“I just remember that he has an amazing forehand, like a really, really good one. So maybe I’ll see some highlights of that match, some highlights of his match today.”

Also advancing to the next round is Russian third seed Daniil Medvedev, who faced little resistance from Federico Delbonis of Argentina in a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 win.

The 24-year-old Medvedev, who lost to Rafa Nadal in last year’s final, faced just two break-points in the entire match – in his first service game of the second set – while breaking his opponent on five occasions.

In the first meeting between the two players, Medvedev sealed victory when his 79th-ranked opponent sent a return into the net in the final match of the evening on Arthur Ashe Stadium. In his second-round match, the Russian will meet Australian Christopher O’Connell, who earlier defeated Laslo Djere of Serbia 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/2) 6-4. – REUTERS

TennisUS OPENANDY MURRAYDominic ThiemDaniil Medvedevnew york