Andy Murray wins 699th match of career with gruelling triumph over Christopher O'Connell
The World No 89 prevailed 6-7 (4/7) 6-3 7-5 over the Australian in a match just shy of three hours in the first round of the tournament.
It was far from a vintage performance from the 34-year-old Scot, who struggled at times to take the match away from the World No 158, but he found a breakthrough when it mattered most to set up a second-round meeting with either fourth seed Jannik Sinner of Italy or Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
It was also important for Murray to bounce back from a galling defeat in Doha last week, when he was marmalised by eventual champion Roberto Bautista Agut 6-0 6-1.
His travails did look like they would continue in the first set as O’Connell dictated much of the play and while Murray did manager to break the 25-year-old when he was serving for the set, O’Connell did get the job done by taking the breaker 7-4. Murray was enraged, smashing his racket off the ground to show his frustrations.
Murray responded in the best way possible, breaking O’Connell to love at the start of the second set and then breaking again to take it 6-3, taking the initiative into the third set.
The ninth game was key in the final set, with Murray fending off four break points and then striking in the 12th game, breaking O’Connell to 15 and securing a hard-fought success.
"I enjoyed the result,” smiled Murray in his on-court post-match interview., “but what went on in the middle was not so easy. I was very frustrated early on in the match. I couldn’t quite find my game and he was dictating a lot of the rallies. I managed to serve a little bit better when the match went on, which helped me a lot, and I just managed to tough it out in the end.”
Asked what tennis still means to him by interviewer Karthi Gnanasegaram, Murray responded: “I’ve spoke to a lot of ex-players and a lot of them have said, ‘keep playing for as long as you can, nothing can replace it’. Some have regretted maybe stopping a little bit too soon. I still feel like I can compete at the highest level. It’s just not easy for me. Physically it is very challenging, but winning matches like that is very satisfying."
Murray will have the day off on Tuesday to prepare for his match against either Sinner or Davidovich Fokina, but Britain’s No 2 Dan Evans will be in action against Andrey Rublev, who won a title in Marseille last week.