Andy Murray followed up his first-round, five-set win against 13th seed Matteo Berrettini with another epic victory against an inspired Thanasi Kokkinakis in a match that lasted five hours and 45 minutes, finishing at 4.05am local time in Melbourne
Friday 20 January 2023 06:10, UK
Andy Murray battled back from two sets down to defeat home hope Thanasi Kokkinakis in a five-set epic that finished at 4.05am local time at the Australian Open.
Australian Kokkinakis served for victory at 5-3 in the third set of their second-round encounter on a rowdy, partisan Margaret Court Arena only for Murray to show once again that his greatest asset is a stubborn refusal to lose.
The 35-year-old, who had battled for nearly five hours to upset Matteo Berrettini on Tuesday in his best result since 2017, forced a deciding set and finally prevailed 4-6 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 7-5 in a match that will live long in the memory.
At five hours and 45 minutes, it was the longest match of Murray's whole career and the third-latest finish to a tennis match ever.
I did start playing better as the match went on - and yes, I have a big heart
|72%||1st serve win percentage||71%|
|52%||2nd serve win percentage||44%|
|5/22||Break points won||4/14|
|196||Total points won||192|
Asked how he had managed to come through the longest match of his career, Murray said: "I don't know.
"It was unbelievable that I managed to turn that around. Thanasi was serving unbelievably, hitting his forehand huge and I don't know how I managed to get through it.
"I did start playing better as the match went on - and yes, I have a big heart."
He continued: "I think now I am outright the (winner of) most matches coming back from two sets to love down, so I have done it before, I have experience of it and I just rely on that experience and that drive and that fight, and my love of the game and competing and my respect for this event and the competition.
"That's why I kept going."
It was a contest that had everything, not least the quality of the rallies, which somehow did not diminish as the clock ticked on.
Both men were unhappy to be given time violations by umpire Eva Asderaki-Moore, while Kokkinakis, who racked up 102 winners, also received a warning for smashing his racket after a ridiculous point in the third set where Murray retrieved three smashes.
A sizeable number of fans stuck it out to the bitter end but Murray remonstrated to Asderaki-Moore about the lateness of the hour, branding it "disrespectful", and the increasing number of post-midnight finishes will surely focus attention on tennis' scheduling.
The match did not begin until after 10pm, and the atmosphere was tasty from the start - if ever there was a name to inspire chants from an Australian crowd, it is surely Kokkinakis.
The 26-year-old, like his opponent, has dealt with more than his fair share of injury troubles but has shown before he can rise to a big occasion, boasting wins over Roger Federer and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Kokkinakis made a nervous start but Murray was unable to take any of three break points in the second game and from there the Australian began to dictate with his big serve and forehand.
He broke serve to lead 3-2, going on to take the first set and then looked in complete control when he forged ahead before winning the subsequent tie-break.
11 - Andy Murray
10 - Roger Federer
10 - Boris Becker
10 - Aaron Krickstein
The 35-year-old cut a frustrated figure but his powers of defence helped him pull back after dropping serve, with Kokkinakis engaging in an expletive-laden rant at Asderaki-Moore over a time violation and then reacting to Murray's incredible retrieving skills by pounding his racket into the ground in disgust.
The Scot just could not get on the front foot, though, and Kokkinakis broke again, setting up the chance to serve for the match.
But - as in the second set - Kokkinakis tightened up a little at the vital moment and Murray seized his opportunity before clinching the tie-break when his opponent sent a smash horribly wide of the open court.
It had been his one Achilles heel all night and it finally gave Murray something to work with.
He began to take control of more of the baseline rallies and finally broke for 4-2 in the fourth set before clinching it with an ace after saving two break points as the clock reached 3am.
Kokkinakis' serve kept him in it in the decider, including recovering from 0-40 at 3-3, but at 5-5 Murray finally found a way through and he served out one of the most memorable victories of his life.
"It's ridiculously late, you didn't need to do that, but it really helps me and Thanasi in a situation like that when we have all of you creating an amazing atmosphere for us, so we appreciate that," said Murray.
"Everyone, including me, I think we should all get off to bed now."
Having spent more than 10 hours on court, Murray must now somehow try to recover for a third-round clash with Roberto Bautista Agut, the player he lost to in 2019 - over five sets again no less - when it appeared his career was over.
Much earlier in the day, Dan Evans raced past veteran Frenchman Jeremy Chardy and into the third round where he will meet fifth seed Andrey Rublev.
The British No 2 would have been grateful for the cooler conditions in Melbourne after his first-round clash with Facundo Bagnis was delayed by extreme heat.
He battled for three and a half hours to get past the Argentinian but needed less than two hours to wrap up a 6-4 6-4 6-1 victory over 35-year-old Chardy.
Evans kept his cool through an umpiring controversy when Chardy was incensed by an incident in the seventh game of the first set.
When, facing break point, a ball fell out of his pocket during play, which would normally cause the point to be replayed.
But German umpire Miriam Bley did not notice until a split second after Chardy netted and awarded the point to Evans.
Chardy argued his case at length and the supervisor was called to court but the decision remained the same.
He did not hold back afterwards, saying: "It's a big mistake from the umpire. I was angry because she should stop straightaway, and she says she didn't even see the ball.
"I don't know what she's doing because she doesn't call in or out, she just called the score, and if she doesn't watch the point, I don't know why she's on the chair. So I was p****d, and I was even more p****d when she didn't tell me she made the mistake."
Chardy believes umpires should face sanctions in such situations, saying: "It's what I said to her. If I miss a point, then break my racket, I will get fined. You can do a huge mistake and nothing will happen to you. So I think this is not fair."
I don't really know what to make of what happened. I don't really know who was in the right and who was in the wrong. It was just a pretty awkward situation
Evans said of the incident: "The only part I wanted to clear up was I was just simply asking the umpire why it was a let. I didn't see any of what happened, because obviously the play was all in the other corner. I think it went on a bit too long, and it got cleared up, and then I did a good job of holding.
"I know Jeremy relatively well, so I didn't really want it to sour the match. If it was someone I didn't know so well, I'd be hoping he was getting fired up and a bit angry with the situation.
"I don't really know what to make of what happened. I don't really know who was in the right and who was in the wrong. It was just a pretty awkward situation."
Evans would like to see the rule changed, saying: "I think it's the worst rule ever. If a ball comes out of your pocket, it's your own fault."
Former quarter-finalist Rublev fought off a challenge from Finland's Emil Ruusuvuori in the third set to make it through with a 6-2 6-4 6-7 (2-7) 6-3 win.