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Marathon Murray's Roller Coaster Matches In 2023

Briton into Doha semis this week behind a trio of three-setters
February 23, 2023
Andy Murray has spent more than 20 hours on court in his past six matches.
Andy Murray has spent more than 20 hours on court in his past six matches. By ATP Staff

For a 35-year-old with a metal hip, Andy Murray has spent quite a bit of time on court this season: more than 20 hours across his past six matches, to be exact. Given his age and recent injury struggles, it might be assumed that those marathon matches would favour his opponents. The reality is the opposite, far from the first time the Briton has proven conventional wisdom wrong.

Murray has notched five ATP Tour victories this year. Each one of them was won in a deciding set.

"The last couple of years I lost quite a lot of close matches, and it's something I spoke to my team about last year," Murray said this week in Doha, where he has won three three-setters to advance to his 102nd tour-level semi-final. "I think the work I did in the offseason on my game, physically has given me a bit more belief in those moments.

"I think when you're in better shape, when you start to fatigue, it helps you make better decisions. If you're struggling quite a bit physically towards the end of matches and in those important moments, it makes you maybe try and shorten the points, or play a different way, which doesn't give you the best chance of wining. I feel like that improvement physically has helped in those moments."

After a pair of marathon five-setters at the Australian Open, Murray has continued his penchant for long-running matches this week at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha. The 35-year-old's most recent win came on Thursday, a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 comeback against Alexandre Muller in the quarter-finals of the ATP 250. Clocking in at two hours and four minutes, that match wrapped up the blink of an eye compared to Murray's other recent exploits.

The former World No. 1 opened his Doha campaign Monday by saving three match points in another come-from-behind effort, a 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(4) win against Lorenzo Sonego that required two hours, 30 minutes. On Wednesday, he was on the court for more than three hours in a 7-6(5), 2-6, 7-5 upset of Alexander Zverev. While he did not have to save a match point in that second-round contest, he was twice two points from defeat as he served to stay in the match at 4-5 in the third.

"Obviously I would like to win the matches quicker," Murray said after defeating the fourth-seeded German. His mother, Judy Murray, chimed in on Twitter earlier in the week: "A straight-sets win once in a while would be nice. 🎢" she wrote.

But as long as he's winning, neither will mind too much. No doubt Murray is taking confidence from his ability to back up one gruelling victory with another, just as he did at the Aussie Open last month.

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The word "epic" is perhaps too freely thrown around to describe many tennis matches, but Murray's two Melbourne wins define the term.

Facing 13th seed and returning AO semi-finalist Matteo Berrettini in the first round, Murray earned his first Top 20 victory at a Grand Slam in more than five years with a 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-7(7), 7-6(10-6) result. Match time: four hours, 49 minutes.

“I’ll be feeling this this evening and tomorrow, but right now I’m just unbelievably happy, very proud of myself," Murray said after the instant classic, in which he saved a match point at 4-5 in the fifth before clinching victory with a friendly net cord in the decisive tie-break.

He flirted with the five-hour mark again in the second round, staging an inspired comeback to knock off home favourite Thanasi Kokkinakis 4-6, 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-3, 7-5 after four hours, 45 minutes. In his record 11th comeback from two sets down, Murray withstood 102 winners, including 37 aces, from the Aussie. Murray's Melbourne run was ultimately ended by Roberto Bautista Agut, but not until another three hours, 29 minutes of drama unfolded.

On Friday in Doha, Murray will seek that elusive straight-sets win against AO quarter-finalist Jiri Lehecka. The good news for the Briton: at the very most, he only has six more sets to play this week.

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