NEW YORK: Andy Murray recorded his first top-10 victory in over three years with an impressive 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 triumph over world No. 7 Alexander Zverev to reach the last 16 at the Western & Southern Open in New York on Monday.
The Briton, who played his first official match since last November on Saturday, had been hampered by a pelvic injury that forced him to miss the start of the 2020 season.
The former world No. 1, now down to 134 in the rankings having gone through two hip surgeries, split the first two sets with Germany’s Zverev before surging ahead 4-1.
Murray lost his advantage as Zverev rallied back and served for the match at 5-4, only to double-fault three times and get broken.
That gave Murray the lifeline he needed as the two-time Cincinnati champion took the next two games to set up a last-16 showdown with Canadian Milos Raonic, who beat Britain’s Dan Evans 6-3, 7-5.
“It was a big one to get through,” said Murray.
“If you watched my practice sets and stuff in the build-up to the tournament, I was getting belted by everyone. But practice doesn’t really matter. It’s what obviously you do on the match court.
“I think inside me like I have a very, very strong self-belief and know that I can win matches like that.”
Dominic Thiem, the No. 2 seed who played a whopping 28 exhibition matches over the past five months, received a 6-2, 6-1 drubbing from Serbian world No. 32 Filip Krajinovic, who lost just two points on serve throughout their second-round encounter.
Earlier, Serena Williams was made to sweat in her opening match before overcoming Dutch qualifier Arantxa Rus 7-6 (8-6), 3-6, 7-6 (7-0).
Williams saved a set point in the tiebreak before taking a one-set lead in 60 minutes against the 72nd-ranked lefty. The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion broke at the start of the second set but lost four games in a row as the match went to a decider.
With the heat rule in effect, a 10-minute break before the final set seemed to get Williams back on track as the 39-year-old fought off four break points in game one then upped her level to serve for the match at 5-3.
She couldn’t serve it out though and lost the next three games before it was Rus’ turn to get broken while serving for the match. Williams blasted through the deciding tiebreak to book a last-16 showdown with Greek No. 13 seed Maria Sakkari.
It was Williams’ fourth three-setter in four matches contested since the resumption of the tour earlier this month. The world No. 9 says this is the fittest she’s felt since before getting pregnant in 2017 but admits that she “hit a wall” midway through her match with Rus.
“At some point it’s going to get better. I don’t feel like I am doing anything bad,” said Williams of her level of play.
Naomi Osaka was also put to the test by talented Czech Karolina Muchova but managed to come through 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-2 in what was the Japanese star’s first tournament appearance (besides the Fed Cup) since the Australian Open last January.
Recently unveiled as the highest-earning female athlete on the planet, Osaka gave a clinical performance as she and her opponent engaged in a duel of pure first-strike tennis. A foot blister hampered Muchova in the final set and helped Osaka, who struck 12 aces, set up a last-16 meeting with Dayana Yastremska.
“I think I’m more assured of myself and I’m definitely more calm and collected. Hopefully I can keep that going,” said Osaka, who has come out of her shell the last five months, becoming more outspoken, and making a conscious effort of being less shy.
Petra Kvitova fell in her opener to Marie Bouzkova 2-6, 7-5, 6-2 in scorching weather conditions.
The two-time Wimbledon champion, seeded sixth in New York this week, started strong against her fellow Czech but appeared to struggle in the heat and humidity as the match went on.
Russian No. 3 seed Daniil Medvedev commenced his Cincinnati title defence campaign with a smooth 6-4, 6-4 victory over American qualifier Marcos Giron to move into the third round. He takes on Aljaz Bedene next. – dpa