Andy Murray produced yet another Herculean effort at the Australian Open, coming back from two sets and a break down against home favorite Thanasi Kokkinakis in a match that went on past 4 a.m. in Melbourne.
At five hours and 45 minutes, it was the longest match of Murray's illustrious career, as the 35-year-old -- playing with a metal hip following a joint resurfacing operation in 2019 -- eventually prevailed 4-6 6-7 7-6 6-3 7-5 to reach the third round.
Kokkinakis will be left to rue what might have been after serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set -- "This f*****g sport man," he tweeted afterward, accompanied by a sad face -- but the night will be all about Murray and his remarkable turnaround after four years of mostly pain and heartbreak following that surgery.
After a grueling five-setter against Matteo Berrettini in the opening round, most viewers wondered whether Murray would have anything left in the tank for round two. He did -- and then some.
There were times during the match, in particular during that third set, when Murray looked down and out, trudging back to the baseline after every point with an exhausted expression on his face.
Not only did the Scot hang in there, he rolled back the years to produce some stunning tennis in what ended up being the second-longest match in Australian Open history.
One point in particular will certainly live long in the memory. With Kokkinakis two sets up and leading 2-0 in the third set, Murray improbably chased down five successive shots that all should have been winners, before eventually forcing his opponent into a mistake to break serve.
It ended up being perhaps the most crucial point of the match, one that will no doubt go down as an all-time classic in Australia, as Kokkinakis destroyed his racket in frustration following Murray's defensive heroics.
Murray now holds the record for most comebacks from two sets down of all active players with 11 -- and this one might have been his greatest yet. That perhaps sounds strange given it was just the second round of a grand slam against a player ranked 159th in the world, but in the context of what Murray has been through in recent years, few comebacks will have felt sweeter.
When asked in his on-court interview how he had turned the match on its head, Murray was almost at a loss for words.
"I mean, I don't know ... it was unbelievable that I managed to turn that around," he said with a stutter. "Thanasi was playing ... serving unbelievable, 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, yeah, I have a big heart.
"Now, I'm outright the [player with] most matches coming back from two sets to love down, so I've done it before," Murray added.
"I have experience of it and I 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."
Murray will now play the No. 24 seed Roberto Bautista Agut, who also came from two sets down earlier on Thursday, for a place in the third round.
It remains to be seen just how much Murray has left to give in Australia, but if this tournament has taught us anything, it is to never write him off.
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