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'Proud' Murray wins five-set epic on return to Australian Open

3.'Proud' Murray wins five-set epic on return to Australian Open
Britain's Andy Murray reacts as he plays during his men's singles match against Georgia's Nikoloz Basilashvili on day two of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 18, 2022. (Photo: AFP)
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MELBOURNE, Australia — Andy Murray said that the injury hell which nearly forced him into retirement now seemed worth all the pain after battling to his first win at the Australian Open since 2017 on Tuesday.اضافة اعلان

The three-time Grand Slam champion, playing with a metal hip following career-saving surgery in 2019, heroically emerged victorious from five epic sets against 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili.

The 34-year-old Murray wrestled with the big-hitting Georgian for almost four hours before claiming his place in the second round, where he will face Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel.

Scotland's Murray, ranked 113 and playing as a tournament wild card, showed his trademark fighting spirit to edge home in the gripping final set and clinch a 6-1, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4 victory.

It was his first match at the Australian Open since 2019, when he went out in the first round. He made a tearful exit and it was thought that it might be his farewell. He had surgery on his hip weeks later, his career at stake.

"I think winning matches like today and competing against guys that are around 20-25 in the rankings, yeah, I'm proud of that," Murray, a former world number one, said.

"It's not easy. I put a lot of work and effort in. Even since the operation I've had various issues as well. Kept going and, yeah, days like today make it worthwhile."

Of his return to the court that conjured painful memories of his last tilt at the Australian Open, Murray added: "I don't think much about what happened three years ago. I know you'd probably like me to say something different, but that's the truth."

His nail-biting victory over Basilashvili continued an intense rivalry between the pair, with Murray rallying from a set down to defeat him last week in Sydney and also prevailing over four sets in the first round at Wimbledon last year.

- Thundering groundstrokes -

Murray grabbed the opening set with the loss of just one game, but Basilashvili leveled it up with the second set, before trading blows with the wily Scot in the third.

Basilashvili was hammering his groundstrokes and Murray had to use all his guile and guts to get the ball back in play and work for an opening.

They went to a deciding set after Basilashvili refused to go quietly, winning a titanic tiebreaker in the fourth set.

The Georgian began the final set poorly, falling behind 0-40 on serve and netting a backhand to hand Murray a break.

But yet again Basilashvili refused to give in and broke back to level at 4-4.

Murray held serve and then got to 0-40 on Basilashvili's service in the 10th game before taking the epic, to crowd pandemonium inside the arena.

Murray lost to Roger Federer once in the final of the Australian Open and four times to Novak Djokovic.

But Murray is a three-time Grand Slam champion, winning the 2012 US Open, and the following year he became the first British man to win the Wimbledon singles crown in 77 years. He won it again in 2016.

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