Andy Murray produced his biggest win since undergoing a second hip operation, recovering from 4-5 in the last set against world number 7 Alexander Zverev to reach the third round of the Open of the ‘West and South. The turbulent 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 victory marked the Scotsman’s first top 10 victory since defeating Kei Nishikori in the 2017 Roland Garros quarter-final and his best since he triumphed over Novak Djokovic at the 2016 World Cup Finals tour.
After a rambling first-round victory over Frances Tiafoe, Murray stressed that his expectations in New York were zero. All players are simultaneously coming back from a long period of inactivity at the same time, but Murray had not competed since November 2019 and has spent much of the last 10 months away from the pitch as he focused on strengthening his hip. For Murray, the most important part of these matches is learning how his body reacts to another comeback in top competition.
The answer came quickly on Monday. Within minutes of the start of Murray’s second game against a Top 10 player in three years, Zverev sought to probe his opponent’s metallic hip with a first dropshot. Murray responded instantly and chased the ball away with ease, slipping a deft forehand past Zverev and no doubt demonstrating how he can still tear up the pitch at will.
Murray’s rebirth over the past 12 months has been a reminder of just how competitive he is and how he inevitably stands against the best players. Murray broke early at 2-1, and early on he moved around the pitch with ease and dictated where he could. Murray’s biggest measure of confidence was the way he handled Zverev’s fragile second serve, taking a huge step forward to meet the ball just inches from the serve line.
The complexion of the match changed at the start of the second set as Zverev eliminated his forehand errors and began to dominate behind his first serve, ending the set after winning 14 of his 15 first serve points. As Zverev prospered, Murray began to tire and feel the game in his legs. As his groundstrokes slowed down and his second serve turned to dust, Zverev leveled the game.
In the last set, Murray looked shaky at first, facing a 1-1 break point. However, he saved with a big serve and a backhand winner on the T, his ensuing roar echoing through the empty grandstand stadium. He took solace from his second, breaking in the next game with three excellent returns, sealed with a nasty cross backhand return winner almost above the service line.
It was 10 months since Murray last competed and many more since he was really tough to play, and he couldn’t keep the 4-1 lead he had built. As Zverev returned to 5-4 with four games in a row, Murray appeared to be moments away from loss.
However, in the end, it was the top 10 players who froze. At 5-4 two, Zverev threw two burlesque double faults that missed the service line on foot. After a quick take from Murray, Zverev opened the service game with two more double faults. Murray needed no more chances, seizing the break to take it one step further with a memorable victory.
“It was a big test to go through,” said Murray. “I think if I had lost a game after finishing 4-1 in the third and having chances… it would have been hard to lose.
Murray will face Milos Raonic in the third round, who largely beat Dan Evans 6-3, 7-5 earlier on Monday. Evans has proven this year that his game can still compete well with some of the best players, but solid performances on the biggest stages have remained elusive. Despite having reached a career high of 28, Evans reached the fourth round of a single slam of his career, the Australian Open in 2017. His Masters 1000 record now stands at 4-10 , having never won consecutive matches in the highest category of ATP. tournaments.
In the women’s draw, Britain’s No.1 Johanna Konta had few problems securing her first win since the tour suspension, beating Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens 6-2, 6-0 in 63 minutes. After suffering from heart palpitations during her loss to Marie Bouzkova at the Top Seed Open, then after enduring the long drive between Lexington and Long Island, New York, she teamed up with her new trainer, Thomas Hogsteadt, for their first official tournaments together in New York. As the eighth seed in the bubble, there could be plenty of opportunities ahead if she regains her form quickly.