Former World No. 1 Andy Murray earned his first victory at the Australian Open in five years Tuesday as he showed his trademark fighting spirit, overcoming 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-1, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-4 to reach the second round in Melbourne.
Murray, who has struggled with injuries since he reached the fourth round as the top seed in 2017, sat deep behind the baseline against Basilashvili in a physical clash, soaking up the Georgian’s powerful groundstrokes in a performance full of grit and determination to advance after three hours and 52 minutes as he demonstrated his big-match mentality.
It is Murray’s second victory over the 29-year-old in the past week, having beaten the World No. 23 in three sets en route to his first tour-level final since 2019 (Antwerp) at the Sydney Tennis Classic.
The 34-year-old’s last appearance in Melbourne came in 2019, when he lost an emotional match against Roberto Bautista Agut in five sets, with many fearing it would be Murray’s last hurrah at a tournament he has reached the final at five times (2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016) due to his hip problem.
However, following further hip surgery, Murray has built himself back up, reaching tour-level quarter-finals in Metz and Stockholm in 2021 and earning Top 10 wins over Hubert Hurkacz and Jannik Sinner.
The Scot, who broke Basilashvili nine times on John Cain Arena, will next face Taro Daniel after the Japanese qualifier defeated Chile qualifier Tomas Barrios Vera 7-6(5), 6-1, 6-1.
Murray made a fast start against the Georgian, hitting with consistent depth to force Basilashvili into errors from the baseline as he moved ahead. In a topsy-turvy clash, where the momentum swung one way and then the other, Basilashvili raised his level in the second set to level, before there were three consecutive breaks in the third set from 2-2, with Murray earning two of them to lead once again.
The wild card struggled on serve at the start of the fourth set though as he started to look physically drained. Murray spent large periods of the clash scampering around the baseline to fend off Basilashvili’s heavy groundstrokes, but worked his way back into the set from 2-4 down as he started to close the net effectively to shorten points.
Murray showed courage to save a set point on serve at 4-5, 30/40, striking a powerful backhand cross court as they moved to a tie-break. However, Basilahvili was too strong in the breaker, hitting through Murray to force a decider. Murray changed up the chess board in the five set though, playing more aggressively as he stepped inside the court to dictate. From 4-1 up and nearly home though, Murray squandered his advantage as Basilashvili levelled. However, the Scot maintained his focus and broke again in the 10th game of the set to seal another classic win.
Did You Know?
With his defeat, it is just the second time Basilashvili has lost in five sets, triumphing on six occasions when taken the distance.