Andy Murray: The man who refuses to lose wins epic opener at 2020 US Open
Andy Murray looked down and out against Yoshihito Nishioka but, playing in his first Grand Slam in nearly two years, he came back from the brink again, saving a match point on his way to a stunning five-set win.
Andy Murray of Great Britain reacts during his Men's Singles first round match against Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan on Day Two of the 2020 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 1, 2020 in the Queens borough of New York Ci
How many times has that been said over the last 15 years?
There was a worry it might never be said again in a tennis context when Murray suggested that retirement could be on the horizon following his five-set defeat to Roberto Bautista Agut at the 2019 Australian Open.
“Maybe I'll see you again…I’ll give it my best shot,” were Murray’s words after an emotional exit.
See us again he has. Given it his best shot he definitely has.
Given the difficulties he has faced in the last couple of years there had to be questions over whether Murray could ever win a match like this again - from two sets down, across four hours and 38 minutes of mostly long rallies against a consistent opponent in Yoshihito Nishioka.
He has form of course, having previously come from two sets down to win on nine occasions, but this was the first time he has done it since he beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on his way to winning Wimbledon in 2016.
In the four years since that victory he has only played in seven of a possible 15 Grand Slams. This was only his fourth Grand Slam singles match since the start of 2018. No wonder he was unsure about going the distance again.
“At the beginning of the match I was apprehensive about playing a long match because I hadn't played one for a while,” he admitted after his gruelling win on Arthur Ashe Stadium, where a number of his peers were watching on from the suites.
But this is Murray’s territory.
He might not have been in this situation for nearly two years, but there was no way he wasn’t going to fight until the end. Absolutely no way.
Yoshihito Nishioka spurned a match point in the fourth set
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Even though he was outplayed in the opening two sets and his level wasn’t the best, he found a way, cranking up the power on his forehand and improving his first serve as the match went on – going from 41 per cent of first serves in the first set to 54 per cent in the third, 63 in the fourth, and 79 in the fifth.
From hitting only six winners in the opening set, he finished off with 16 in the final set.
At 33, a year after a career-defining hip surgery, having played only one other tour-level event since November, battling a foot injury sustained during the match, how is it possible that Murray got stronger as the contest wore on?
His mum, Judy, said that it is down to his “warrior spirit”.
Perhaps he was also spurred on by all the setbacks and injury battles over the last couple of years. But then Murray has always been a player who simply refuses to lose.
Andy Murray after his win over Yoshihito Nishioka
Image credit: Getty Images
The big, lingering question now is whether he can potentially do it again in 48 hours when he faces Canadian youngster Felix Auger Aliassime in the second round.
Murray was unable to back up his impressive opening-round win over Alexander Zverev at the Western & Southern Open last week as he was beaten convincingly by Milos Raonic in his next match.
That was only three sets he played against Zverev, and nowhere nearly as physically exhausting as this match against Nishioka, who was consistent and made Murray run and play a lot of balls.
Plus, there might not be any ice bath for recovery due to health and safety precautions, although Murray is hoping this will class as an emergency.
"They have [an ice bath] in the locker room, they say it's for emergencies - for me, this is an emergency right now!
“My body hurts, I need to recover as best as possible. I'll ask and see if they'll allow me to use the ice bath. I need to rest up and try and recover as best I can because that's by far the most tennis I've played since 2019, since I played Bautista at the Australian Open."
Ice bath or not, if there's one man who might be able to do it, it's Murray.