Andy Murray continues to prove he isn’t done yet as he defeats Yoshihito Nishioka in a five-set comeback win in the US Open’s first round.
“Amateurs quit when they are tired. Champions quit only when they have won.”
This quote describes no player more than Andy Murray. After two years, multiple surgeries, and the Challenger Tour, the former US Open champion finally made his way back onto the court where he was at his very best. No, it wasn’t a major final and no, there were no fans to gather energy from.
Deep within him, however, is a champion and a fighter, no matter the circumstances. Even in a first-round match in a cavernously-empty Arthur Ashe Stadium, the energy was palpable. The spirits of his victory all those years ago still floated in the rafters, waiting to yet again be called upon.
Today was their lucky day. Against all odds, the champion was back. Through talks of not being able to last in a five-set match to whether or not he’d even be able to get that far in the first place, Andy Murray pulled out an improbable win yet again.
In comparison to some of the greatest players of his generation, Murray doesn’t even come close to the Grand Slam and overall career success. While his Big 3 counterparts have 20, 19, and 17 major titles, respectively, Murray has just 3. He hasn’t been #1 for more than four years and has just 41 weeks at the top spot to his name.
Where he makes up, however, is in his passion. His fire and will to succeed is unmatched. He’s one of the most energetic players on tour, from both the baseline and on the changeover. It’s only fitting that Murray played likely the best match of his in the last four years in this scenario.
From the jump, it didn’t look good. Murray struggled immensely on his serve and finished with 13 double faults (5 in the second set alone). Nishioka’s serve wasn’t a huge amount better but his 67% first-serve rate through the first two sets and a solid 3-of-4 on break point chances was enough to give him a two sets to none advantage.
Things weren’t looking much better for the former champion in the third set, either. He lost his serve in the opening game and succumbed to two quicks hold from Nishioka to fall behind 1-3. He was able to tie it up at 3-all, and the roars began to surface.
Murray saved four break points in his final three service games, including 3 when serving at 5-all. A loss in the game would’ve put Nishioka within four points of the match but once again, champions are forever champions.
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After taking the third set tiebreak, Murray’s serve woes once again put him on the brink of disaster. He squandered two game points and needed to save two break points at 1-all before finally holding to remain on serve. He then came back from another two break points down at 2-3 to yet again keep himself in the match.
Despite the miraculous comeback that had been taking place so far, it looked like Nishioka was finally going to be able to sneak out a victory. It all came to a head at 5-6. Murray had an easy putaway dunk volley at 30-15 on his serve but pushed it wide. He slumped on the net, his sails fluttering to a windless stop.
A roar of frustration escaped him as he yet again wasted an easy opportunity at 40-15, playing the same exact shot with just enough pace for Nishioka to slap it back for a passing shot winner.
All seemed lost. Down a match point later in the game, the fifth time was finally going to be the charm for him to lose his serve this set and the match. A clutch serve put him back in the match and a forehand pushed long by Nishioka on game point gave Murray a breath of life. It wasn’t over yet.
As the “come on’s” got louder, Nishioka confidence dropped. Murray closed out the set at 6-4 in the tiebreak with a blistering crosscourt forehand. It was the champion’s match to win now.
And win he did.
It took 4 hours and 39 minutes to get it done. Yes, it was only the first round and yes, it wasn’t against Novak Djokovic, but Andy Murray’s comeback to the limelight of the ATP is nothing shy of brilliant.
He’ll not have an easy next round. While Felix Aguer-Alissime needed a four-hour, four-set match to advance to the second round, he’s still a formidable opponent. What he doesn’t have, however, is the years of hard work and drive that Murray had. He never had the trials and tribulations of multiple surgeries or having to stoop down into the Challenger Tour just two years after winning a Grand Slam.
Whatever the result is, it’s clear that Andy Murray is back. The roars of the crowd will have to wait but he’s bringing enough passion on his own to make up for it. It’s a shake-your-head and smile type of situation. Whoever would’ve thought we’d be seeing a vintage-esque performance after everything that’s happened is lying.
Welcome to the Andy Murray Show. He’s living it, and we’re all scrambling to book our tickets.