Former world number one Andy Murray produced one of his greatest ever comebacks to sink home hope Thanasi Kokkinakis in a titanic second-round thriller at the Australian Open in the early hours of Friday morning.
The 35-year-old Scot looked down and out against an inspired Kokkinakis as he trailed by two sets and 2-5 but displayed his trademark warrior spirit to somehow claw out a 4-6, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-3, 7-5 victory after five hours and 45 minutes.
When Murray finally got the job done in what was his 250th Grand Slam match, the clock was just past 4.05am local time but a sizeable and vociferous crowd had remained glued to their seats inside the Margaret Court Arena.
It was another stupendous effort from the three-time Grand Slam champion whose career has been littered by such battles and who has stubbornly refused to call it a day since having a partly metal hip inserted in 2019.
Bizarrely, he will now play Roberto Bautista Agut, the man who beat him at the 2019 Australian Open, after which Murray’s career appeared to be over because of the hip condition.
While it felt absurd to have elite sport going on at such an hour, Murray simply did not care as he showed again his insatiable appetite for a scrap.
The 26-year-old Kokkinakis, whose own career has been too often blighted by injuries, dominated the opening two sets with the kind of aggressive tennis and ball-striking that made a mockery of his world ranking of 159.
Murray’s resistance looked over when Kokkinakis led 5-2 in the third set with the Australian on the verge of his biggest career win. But Murray would not go away.
Kokkinakis got tight with the finishing line in sight and the venom gradually went out of his shots as Murray threw caution to the wind and locked on to his target.
Relentlessly Murray ground his way back into the contest to set up a deciding fifth set, sealing the fourth set with a second-serve ace.
A weary-looking Kokkinakis did not capitulate and the raucous atmosphere inside the stadium revived him early in set five as he kept his nose in front on serve.
There was pandemonium when he saved four break points at 3-3 and Kokkinakis was within two points of victory when Murray served at 4-5 in the decider.
But Murray’s greater experience of such duels enabled him to get the crucial break of serve in the following game with a stunning forehand winner before sealing victory in the next game on his first match point with a backhand winner.
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