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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Monday, February 26, 2024


Andy Murray edged Denis Shapovalov 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-3 in a pulsating Dubai opener to become the fifth man in Open Era history to win 500 hard-court matches.

Photo credit: Quality Sport Images/Getty

A spirited Andy Murray scaled professional peak in the desert.

Before a supportive crowd, Murray edged Denis Shapovalov 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-3 in a pulsating Dubai opener to become the fifth man in Open Era history to win 500 hard-court matches.

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Two-time Olympic gold-medal champion Murray joins elite company of legendary champions in the 500 hard-court win  club: Roger Federer (783), Novak Djokovic (780), Andre Agassi (592) and Rafael Nadal (518).

A sweat-soaked Murray savored a massive moment with understated wit.

"It's not bad," Murray said. "Obviously hard courts has been a great surface for me over the years.

"Five hundred is a lot of matches so I’m very proud of that. Obviously the list you’ve given, there’s not many who have done that. So great to get to 500 before I’m done."

It was Murray's eighth opening-round win in eight Dubai appearances.

The 36-year-old Murray and 24-year-old Shapovalov are trying to rebuild their respective rankings and each took the court with one win apiece on the young season.

The Canadian left-hander broke for 5-4 and served out the opening set at 15.

In the second set, Murray jumped out to leads of 3-1 and 4-3 only to see Shapovalov come back and eventually drag the second set into a tiebreaker. Murray took a 4-2 lead and showed his counter-strike skills winning the final two points of the breaker to force a decider.

"Both of us haven’t won too many matches lately," Murray said. "He missed a large part of last year. On these courts, he’s obviously played well here in the past, and he’s serving unbelievable.

"You need to try to get the balance right between sort of reacting to his big shots, but not sort of just trying to put balls in the court. It wasn’t easy, but I managed to get it done in the end."

The explosive Shapovalov hit 15 aces against 10 double faults and was sometimes stymied by Murray's defensive prowess down the stretch.

Reading the Canadian's second serve, Murray banged a backhand return winner down the line for match point.

Scraping back a return, Murray closed a gritty win when Shapovalov smacked a one-handed backhand into net.

Afterward, Murray dedicated the win to his dad, William Murray, who was in the crowd and gave his famous son a thumb's up for a job well done.

If the Dubai courts feel a bit like home away from home for Murray that's because the 2017 Dubai champion has spent a lot of time in the area lately.

"I like the conditions. They’re a lot faster than most places on tour," Murray said. "We obviously have brilliant support here and I’ve done my offseason training here on the court I did in December and I was also here a couple of weeks ago on holiday with my family.

"I enjoy coming here and glad to get through another first round. My dad has come to support me this week which means a lot."

The sport runs deep in Murray's blood and he says he's determined to make the most of the time left in his tennis career. Could Murray close the curtain after Wimbledon? He vowed today to do "as best I can these last few months."

"Everyone asks me about [retirement] all the time," Murray said. "I still love competing, I still love the game. But it gets obviously harder and harder the older you get to compete with the young guys and keep your body fit and fresh.

"Not easy—I probably don’t have too long left, but I’ll do as best I can these last few months."


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