Andy Murray beats Nikoloz Basilashvili in five-set Australian Open marathon and targets ‘deep run’

·3 min read
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Three years after Andy Murray’s ‘retirement’ video played out on the big screen at the Australian Open, the Briton showed he still has a future after knocking out No21 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili.

As it had against Roberto Bautista Agut in 2019, the match went the full five sets. But this time Murray merely looked exhausted at the end of another marathon encounter rather than physically broken.

And in truth it wasn’t really decided until its final denouement, Murray doing just enough for a very hard-fought 6-1 3-6 6-4 6-7 6-4 victory just eight minutes shy of four hours.

“It’s been a tough three, four years,” said Murray after the win. “I’ve put in a lot of work to get back here. This is the one where I thought I’d potentially played the last match of my career. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Thankfully I managed to get over the line today.”

Basilashvili had struggled with his breathing at the preceding tournament in Sydney, in which he was knocked out by Murray, having previously had Covid.

But there appeared to be no such issues for the Georgian, whose monstrous groundstrokes are a match for any player. That said, for much of a contest which ebbed and flowed, Murray unleashed all his defensive brilliance to repeatedly keep the ball in play.

The five-time tournament runner-up showed his wildcard had been thoroughly merited as he raced to a comfortable first-set lead with his Georgian opponent’s game littered with unforced errors.

It was in contrast to their last meeting in Sydney last week when Basilashvili had gone ahead, although the manner of the match was echoed on John Cain Arena as the lead repeatedly changed with Basilashvili getting the second-set break to level.

Murray got the necessary breakthrough in set three to take the advantage but could not make the momentum count as Basilashvili broke once more to go 4-2 ahead and likely force a deciding set.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

However, undeterred Murray broke back and forced a tiebreak, which the heavy-hitting Basilashvili dominated.

A frustrated Murray reacted angrily in the changeover but channelled that well in the decider to go 4-1 ahead, only for Basilashvili to break back.

There was to be just one break left in the match, as Murray broke his rival on a third match point to book his place in the second round, after which he set his sights on a long run in Melbourne.

Murray, who has not made it past the third round of a Grand Slam since 2017 said: “I’d love to have a deep run. It’s not something I’ve had in the Slams since getting back from injury. I’ve played some of my best tennis here…hopefully I can do that in this tournament.”

Evans through but Broady out

Like Murray, David Goffin has struggled with injuries and appeared to neither have the fitness nor form as he was swatted aside relatively comfortably by British No2 Dan Evans 6-4 6-3 6-0. The former world No7 had pulled out of his previous match at the Sydney Classic against Murray with a knee complaint after losing the first set 6-2.

 (AP)
(AP)

Following his win, Evans, who reached the semi-finals in Sydney, said: “I wasn’t the easiest of draws but he’s not played so much tennis and I have been playing pretty good tennis. I didn’t leave too many errors out there. I played good tennis overall… and finished strong.”

Liam Broady, however, joined Cameron Norrie as a first-round casualty as he was beaten 6-4 6-4 6-3 by Australian Nick Kyrgios on his debut in the main draw, having come through three rounds of qualifying.

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