Andy Murray wins the Australian Open for the first time since 2017

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

The top-ranked former Murray, playing through wildcard invite as he continues his career comeback after hip surgeries and thoughts of retirement, beat 21st-seeded Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-1 , 3-6, 6-4, 6-7. (5-7), 6-4 on Tuesday to reach the second round at Melbourne Park.

He lost a five-set match in the first round in 2019 – a match he and everyone thought was his last in Australia after missing the 2018 edition through injury. He missed the 2020 tournament due to a pelvic injury and last year’s event due to Covid-19.

“It was three, four difficult years. It took a lot of hard work to get back here,” Murray said in his post-match television interview at John Cain Arena, formerly known as Hisense and known as People’s Court. “I have played on this pitch several times, the atmosphere is incredible. This is the one where I thought I 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 match last week in Sydney, where he reached the final of the tune-up tournament. This lasted nearly four hours.

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

Either way, victory number 50 in Australia is the immediate priority. He then plays Taro Daniel, a qualifier from Japan.

“I think there are things in my game that I can do better,” said Murray, 34, who lost the 2010 final to Roger Federer and four more to Novak Djokovic. “I would love to have a deep run here, if possible. It’s something I haven’t had in any of the Grand Slams since I came back from my injury, and it’s something that drives me.

Murray wasn’t the only five-set spectacular to finish early in the evening on day two.

Ninth-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime held off Emil Ruusuvuori 6-4, 0-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, and Maxime Cressy overcame 20 double faults to upset his fellow American and 22nd seed serial John Isner 7-6 (7-2), 7-5, 6-7 (4-7), 6-7 (4-7), 6-4.

Second-seeded Daniil Medvedev, one of the biggest potential beneficiaries of Djokovic’s expulsion, had a much more routine first round.

Nine-time champion Djokovic was already back in Serbia two days after losing his legal challenge to stay in Australia despite not being vaccinated against Covid-19 when Medvedev entered the Rod Laver Arena for a 6- 1, 6-4, 7-6 (7 -3) defeat Henri Laaksonen.

Aiming to be the first man in the Open era to win his second major title in the very next Grand Slam appearance after his first such trophy, Medvedev advanced with fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, the fifth seed of series Andrey Rublev, Jannik Sinner, Diego Schwartzman and Roberto Bautista Agut.

This is where things could get trickier: he will next face the Australian mercurial Nick Kyrgios.

No one has dominated in Melbourne like Djokovic, who is unbeaten in the combined 18 semi-finals and finals he has reached at the Australian Open, including last year’s victory over Medvedev for the title.

But Medvedev avenged that with his breakthrough major title at the US Open, where his win meant Djokovics’ bid for a calendar-year Grand Slam ended in victory.

“I like the pressure,” Medvedev said. “I always want to do better than last year, [but] it’s not going to be easy.

It’s something that Leylah Fernandez had to deal with.

The 19-year-old Canadian lost 6-2, 6-4 to 133rd-ranked Maddison Inglis in her first Grand Slam match since finishing second at the US Open.

The venue and atmosphere were a far cry from his run to the final against Emma Raducanu at Flushing Meadows last September.

Raducanu fared better on her Australian Open debut. The 17th-seeded Briton beat 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens 6-0, 2-6, 6-1 in a rocking night match that ended the day two schedule.

Second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka looked set to come off before recovering after a set and a breakdown, winning nine straight before claiming a 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Storm Sanders, 128th ranked.

Third-seeded Garbie Muguruza meanwhile maintained a perfect streak when she won her first-round match at the Australian Open for the 10th consecutive time, beating Clara Burel 6-3, 6-4.

Also advancing are top seed Anett Kontaveit, 2020 Roland-Garros champion Iga Swiatek, 2021 Roland-Garros runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, two-time major winner Simona Halep and 2011 US Open champion Sam Stosur. rallied to beat Robin Anderson 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-3 to start his 20th and final singles campaign at the Australian Open.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova lost to Sorana Cirstea for the second straight year, this time 6-2, 6-2 in the first round.

Posted in Dawn, January 19, 2022

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