Published:  01:30 AM, 19 January 2022

Murray wins epic on Australian Open return

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, reports agency.

"It is amazing [to be back]," Murray said in his on-court interview. "It has been a tough three, four years. I have put a lot of work to be back here and I have played on this court many times and the atmosphere has been incredible.

I have always had fantastic support and this is the court I thought I potentially played my last match on. But it is good to be back, winning a five-set battle like that. I could not ask for any more."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."I would love to have a deep run here if possible," Murray said. "It is something I have not had at one of the slams since I came back from the injury and it is something that motivates me. I have played some of my best tennis here over the years and I feel comfortable here."

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.

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