Andy Murray and Frances Tiafoe put on an instant classic at European Open

It’s not very often that you get to see a best-of-three-set match where every set ends in a tiebreak. When former World’s No. 1 Andy Murray and Frances Tiafoe met for just the third time in their careers at the European Open in Antwerp, the two battled for three hours and 45 minutes in arguably the best match of the year. The match also earned the title of the longest for a best-of-three-set match in 2021, by seven minutes over the Rafael Nadal and Stefanos Tsitsitpas showdown in the final at Barcelona.

An extra layer of importance for the competitors in their third head-to-head match was the element of being a rubber match; each holds a victory. Earlier in the year at Winston-Salem, Tiafoe beat Murray 7-6(4) 6-3; their first-ever meeting was in New York 2020 at the ATP Masters 1000, where Murray took the early advantage 7-6(6) 3-6 6-1 in what would be the opening monologue to what is becoming a storied draw.

Tiafoe was the primary aggressor as the American took to the net more frequently than Murray throughout the entire match. Both men were able to break serves, and break-back keeping the match leveled all the way through. In fact, out of a possible 267 points for the match, Tiafoe won 133 to Murray’s 134. Outside of Aces tipping the scale in Murray’s favor 21-8, the rest of the stats are relatively close. Tiafoe was only able to get 58% of his first serves in (77/133) while Murray saw 63% of his first serves in play (84/134); however, Tiafoe won more points off those first serves as well at 78-74%.

“I think it’s the longest three-set match I’ve played by quite a distance,” Murray said after the match, in his on-court interview. “Nowadays, obviously, my body is old now. I’ve played a lot of matches on the Tour. I don’t mind playing long matches, but that was taking it to another level,” Murray said, who is 11 years Tiafoe’s senior, with a metal hip following two surgeries.

Murray will look ahead to his next match on Thursday against the European Open’s second seed, Diego Schwartzman, in the Round of 16, a player he has never matched up against.