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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, September 1, 2020

 
Andy Murray

Andy Murray dug out of a two-set deficit and denied match point at 5-6 in the fourth set roaring back for an epic five-set comeback over Yoshihito Nishioka in gripping US Open comeback.

Photo credit: US Open Instagram

Staring down a bleak two sets and a break deficit, Andy Murray shuffled behind the baseline on blistered big toes looking like a man who spent two hours dragging the Unisphere around Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The finish line loomed as clearly as the baseline and Murray looked like a man running on fumes.

Djokovic: Lack of Communication Unacceptable

Tennis’ marathon man unleashed the warrior within in a spirited run.

A defiant Murray dug out of a two-set deficit, denied match point at 5-6 in the fourth set and roared back from a break down in the final set in an epic 4-6, 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(4), 6-4 comeback over Yoshihito Nishioka in the US Open first round.




The match spanned four hours, 39 minutes—the former No. 1’s longest five-set triumph here since he edged Novak Djokovic in the five-set 2012 US Open final that lasted four hours, 54 minutes—and served as a microcosm of Murray’s brilliant career. 

Two right hip surgeries and decreased mobility have not diminished Murray's appetite for the fight.

The man playing with a metal hip implant showed a steely spine under pressure in a captivating comeback improving to 14-0 in Flushing Meadows first-round matches.

“I’m tired, my toes are the worst part, I think big toes on both sides are pretty beat up,” Murray told ESPN’s Rennae Stubbs afterward. “But I did all right physically. I think at the beginning of the match I was sort of apprehensive about playing a long match because I hadn’t played one in a while and I felt I was pacing myself a lot. I felt a little bit like that at the beginning.

“Once I got two sets down I had to start putting the afterburners on and managed to get through it.”

It is Murray’s 10th career comeback from a two-set deficit as he joins Roger Federer, Boris Becker and Aaron Krickstein as he fourth man in Open era history to win 10 matches from two sets down.




In the end, players ranging from Naomi Osaka to Andy’s older brother Jamie Murray saluted the three-time Grand Slam champion from the seats and the suites inside Arthur Ashe Stadium. Murray joined 2014 champion Marin Cilic, Karen Khachanov and 30th-seeded Casper Ruud as one of four men to fight back from two sets down and prevail today.

Curling his lefty forehand into the corners, Nishioka beat Murray to the ball and forced the two-time Olympic gold medal champion to scrape shots out of the corners for two-and-a-half sets.

The world No. 49 spread the court beautifully building a two-set lead with a potent pattern: Nishioka often whipped a series of crosscourt backhands confining Murray to his backhand corner before darting his forehand dagger down the line.

Punishing the Scot’s second serve Nishioka went up two sets and 2-0 before Murray began to strike the right balance between defense and aggression pulling out the third set.



“I had to start striking the ball a little bit better,” Murray said. “I was hitting the ball a bit late, a little tentative and then I went the other way of just trying to take too many chances and making errors.

“I didn’t have that balance right. I think at the end I started to get the balance right a bit more. I was hitting my forehand better as the match went on dictating more points with that. I think I served fairly well at the end maybe not so well at the beginning. I had to change a few things for sure.”

Three hours, 41 minutes into the match, Murray stared down match point at 5-6 and slashed a twisting serve out wide to save it eventually forcing the tie break.

The 24-year-old Japanese was waving his hands at the heavens when Murray went up 4-1 in tie breaker then sealed the breaker to carry the momentum into the fifth set.




The man wearing the white baseball cap showed head-turning grit in a gripping comeback fighting off 11 of 16 break points.

Nishioka wasn’t done. His forehand gave Murray fits at times as the three-time Grand Slam champion struggled to read the depth and direction of that shot.

The lefty broke first for a 3-2 lead in the decider only to see Murray break right back.

A gritty Murray charged through four of the final five games.




On match point, Nishioka tried the surprise serve-and-volley. Murray, who spent all day playing catch-up, lofted a loopy lob that the 5’7” Nishioka barely tapped long ending a titanic struggle.

When it was over, Murray, whose sweat soaked white t-shirt made him look like a man who had been dipped in nearby Flushing bay, sat back in his court-side seat staring up at the sky dreaming of an ice bath which he took immediately afterward.

"I think it was pretty emotional straight after the match finished," Murray said. "Yeah, when I got back to the locker room, sort of look at my phone, see the messages from family and friends, the team and stuff. They're the people that have kind of seen me go through everything, been there, seen the tough times. I don't know how many of us actually believed I'd be back kind of winning matches like that.

So, it was emotional after the match finished, for sure. It's more like, yeah, when you read the messages from your family and friends and stuff, yeah, that's kind of when you feel it."

The 33-year-old Murray will have Wednesday off before returning to action against talented Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime in round two on Thursday. The 15th-seeded Auger-Aliassime went three hours, 51 minutes fighting off Brazilian Thiago Monteiro in his opener on Court 17.

"He hits a big ball. He moves well," Murray said of the 2019 Miami Open semifinalist. "I hit with him once only in Beijing last year. I think that was the only time I'd hit with him...

"I think he quite obviously likes playing on the hard courts. He's had some struggles with his serve at times. That's something that I'll look to capitalize on. But yeah, I mean, he's a top, top young player. He'll have an excellent, excellent career for sure. He's been really good since he was very young. I think physically he's a fantastic mover, good athlete."

 

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