Former world number one Andy Murray produced one of his greatest comebacks to defeat Thanasi Kokkinakis in a second-round epic at the Australian Open early Friday.
The 35-year-old Scot trailed by two sets and 2-5 against an inspired Kokkinakis, but he demonstrated his signature warrior grit to come back and win in five hours and 45 minutes, 4-6 6-7(4) 7-6(5) 6-3 7-5.
When Murray won his 250th Grand Slam match, the time was 4:05 a.m. local time, yet a large and boisterous crowd remained glued to their seats in the Margaret Court Arena.
The three-time Grand Slam champion, whose career has been plagued with such battles and who has doggedly refused to retire since having a partially metal hip implanted in 2019, delivered another magnificent performance.
Inexplicably, he will now face Roberto Bautista Agut, who defeated him in the 2019 Australian Open when Murray’s career appeared to be ended due to his hip ailment.
Murray clearly did not care that professional sport was taking place at such an insane hour as he once again demonstrated his ravenous desire for a fight.
The 26-year-old Kokkinakis, whose own career has been marred by injuries far too frequently, dominated the first two sets with aggressive tennis and ball striking that made a mockery of his 159th-place global ranking.
Murray’s effort appeared futile when Kokkinakis held a 5-2 lead in the third set, and the Australian was on the approach of claiming his greatest career victory. But Murray refused to leave.
With the finish line in sight, Kokkinakis became tense, and his shots gradually lost their ferocity as Murray threw caution to the wind and locked on to his objective. Murray relentlessly battled back into the match to force a decisive fifth set, clinching the fourth set with a second-serve ace.
The loud atmosphere inside the arena revitalised a weary-looking Kokkinakis early in the fifth set as he kept his nose in front on serve. When he survived four break point opportunities at 3-3, chaos ensued, and Kokkinakis was within two points of win when Murray served at 4-5 in the deciding set.
However, Murray’s greater expertise in such duels enabled him to secure the decisive break of serve in the next game with a magnificent forehand winner before clinching the match with a backhand winner on his first match point in the next game.