Andy Murray produced one of his best performances in years but could not prevent Stefanos Tsitsipas from hitting back to complete a dramatic five-set victory in an enthralling first-round encounter at the 2021 US Open.
The third seed had to work hard to claim a rollercoaster 2-6 7-6(9) 3-6 6-3 6-4 success in four hours and 49 minutes inside a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Speaking during his on-court post-match interview, Tsitsipas said: "It didn't come easy. Lots of sacrifices I had to make on the court to get back. The atmosphere was great today. It was a great day to enjoy some good quality tennis. I hope I'm able to keep my game at the same level that I managed today."
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The 34-year-old Murray, ranked 112 in the world, got off to a flyer as he tore apart a nervy Tsitsipas to earn a double break on his way to taking a dominant opener in 42 minutes.
Tsitsipas improved dramatically in the second set, clocking up a number of love holds and applying plenty of pressure to the Murray serve. However, the former world No 1 held firm to force a tie break in which he took charge.
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Murray had two opportunities for a two-set lead but could not convert at 6-4, complaining of issues with his trainers that were causing him to slip. Tsitsipas took full advantage of the distraction to save both before levelling the match by taking the breaker 9-7.
The expected charge from the French Open finalist did not immediately materialise and Murray once again ripped up the form book by claiming an early break to race into a 3-0 lead. This time the 23-year-old Tsitsipas responded and applied real pressure in Game 5 but clutch serving from Murray saw him fend off no fewer than four break points to stay in charge.
It proved to be a significant moment as the 2012 champion remained relatively untroubled from there and served out the third set with a flurry of forehand winners.
Tsitsipas received treatment on his foot leading into the fourth set but did not appear seriously hampered as he took advantage of what looked like signs of fatigue from Murray. The Greek broke twice to storm into a 5-0 lead and despite a brief riposte from the Scot, it was not enough to avoid a decider.
A delay to the start of the fifth due to Tsitsipas’ lengthy comfort break agitated Murray and he was immediately broken. The three-time Grand Slam winner continued to question the umpire as to why his opponent was allowed to take so long, but it did not affect Tsitsipas’ focus.
The world No 3 fought off a break back point in game four and continued to keep Murray at bay to avoid a shock loss that would have sent shockwaves through the men’s singles draw.
Tsitsipas will now face Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in round two.
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