Andy Murray wins incredible match against Frances Tiafoe in Antwerp - 'longest three-set match I've played by some distance'
The Scot prevailed 7-6 (2) 6-7 (7) 7-6 (8) in three hours, 46 minutes in one of the longest matches the 34-year-old has played on the ATP main tour.
Murray, currently ranked 172 in the world, won the European Open in 2019 and has fond memories of playing in Belgium, where he has also won the Davis Cup.
However, this match will live long in the memory as both he and Tiafoe, ranked 48, dished up one of the best encounters of the 2021 season.
Tiafoe served for the first set twice, but was pegged back by Murray to force a tie-break, which he took 7-2.
There were no breaks of serve in the second set, which the American took 8-6 in the tie-break, converting his sixth break point.
The third set twisted and turned, with Tiafoe going up an early break, but Murray fought back and fended off two match points to take it 10-8 when Tiafoe could not retrieve a drop shot.
The pair embraced warmly at the net, with Murray now going on to face second seed Diego Schwartzman from Argentina on Thursday.
"It was an unbelievable battle,” said Murray. “I think that’s the longest three-set match I’ve played by some distance.
"Nowadays my body is old, so I don’t like playing long matches, but that was an incredible one and atmosphere.
"I’ll use my day off to try and rest and be ready for Thursday.”
Elsewhere on a busy in Antwerp, the US did taste some success as rising stars Jenson Brooksby and Brandon Nakashima booked their spots in the second round.
There are currently 11 Americans in the top 100, emphasising the strength and depth in their country right now, there are high hopes for Brooksby and Nakashima, both aged 20.
Nakashima, a qualifier ranked 79 in the world, powered past Australian sixth seed Alex de Minaur 6-4 6-0 to set up a clash with in-form Swiss Henri Laaksonen, who took down Benoit Paire in three sets.
Brooksby was playing a fellow American in big-serving fifth seed Reilly Opelka, but he broke his compatriot once in each set to record a 6-4 6-4 win. He played US Open quarter-finalist Botic van de Zandsculp, from the Netherlands, in the next round.
There were also victories for Alejandro Davidovich Fokina over Jordan Thompson, while Lorenzo Musetti and Jan-Lennard Struff overcame Gianluca Mager and Albert Ramos-Vinolas respectively.
Meanwhile, Heather Watson suffered a sixth consecutive loss in the opening round of the Tenerife Ladies Open.
The 29-year-old looked set for a morale-boosting victory over Danish rising star Clara Tauson when she fought back from 5-3 down in the deciding set to lead 5-2 in a tie-break.
But Watson failed to capitalise on her opportunity and 18-year-old Tauson triumphed 6-4 2-6 7-6 (6) after two hours and 38 minutes.
Watson, who is now ranked down at 72, has not won a singles match since the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati in August.