Andy Murray has been keen over recent years, to prove he had the game to be fighting the best even with the metal hip he picked up in 2019, a point he has made most emphatically at this year’s Australian Open where he had graced the final on five occasions prior to his unfortunate hip operation.
Thanasi was serving unbelievably, hitting his forehand huge and I don’t know how I managed to get through it. I did start playing better as the match went on – and yes, I have a big heart! Andy Murray
The 19th January will be remembered in tennis history as the day Murray baffled everyone when he pulled off a remarkable win over the local hero, Thanasi Kokkinakis by recovering from two sets down to close it out after 5-hours and 45-minutes. The match had started at 20-minutes past ten in the evening only for it to finish the following morning at 4.08am with the Brit prevailing 4-6 6-7(4) 7-6(5) 6-3 7-5!
It was the longest match Murray had played in his career and the third latest finish in tennis history. It also followed another five setter he had played in the first round when he took out the 13th seeded Matteo Berrettini after four hours and 50-minutes.
How he has played through 10-hours and 35-minutes just to reach the third round is incredible. As a pundit put it, he is a player with an ‘iron will and a steel hip’!
That iron will was certainly very evident during the entire encounter against the 159th world ranked Australian.
From the start Murray looked to silence the boisterous and partisan crowd with some strong initial play but failure to convert three early break points proved fatal as Kokkinakis’ serve only improved from then on.
The first break went the way of the Aussie who dropped just a single point on his three remaining service games to win the set, with Murray unable to find a suitable response.
There was no change in the second set with both players holding until 4-4 when Murray, clearly frustrated, lost his to love which really got the crowd inside Margaret Court Arena roaring.
Kokkinakis went on to serve for a two-sets to love lead but the Scot saved two set points and even raised a break back point.
The 25-year-old Aussie saved it but a double fault, his first, produced another to the delight of his opponent who managed to force Kokkinakis into a forehand error and get back into the set.
Two games later the set went into a tie-break where the home favourite regained his momentum and soon had four set points, converting the third to leave himself one set from a famous victory.
Murray’s race looked run at the start of the third after he was broken to love and failed to convert three break points in the very next game.
However, the tide seemed to turn when Kokkinakis lost his focus following a row with the umpire over a time violation allowing Murray to secure a vital break with one of the points of the tournament following a sensational rally.
Murray held to love only for Kokkinakis to regain the momentum when he broke and set himself up to serve out for the match where Murray broke back again!
With the match back on serve, a second tie-break was needed which saw Murray finally get a foothold as the errors started to pile up on Kokkinakis’ side.
As both men started to feel the effects of a gruelling encounter, it was Kokkinakis who blinked first in the fourth as Murray secured the first break for a 4-2 lead.
As Murray served for the set, Kokkinakis missed two opportunities to break back and so the pair were into a decider.
At this point, just shy of 3am local time, it was Murray’s turn to rant at the umpire over the time, and the fact the players weren’t allowed to go to the toilet.
“Why are we playing at 3am?” Murray shouted.
Murray nearly broke through at 3-3 but saw four break points come and go in an important hold for the Australian.
The two remained neck and neck in the set but Murray edged ahead on his fourth break point at 5-5, finally getting the opportunity to serve for the match.
The 35-year-old three-time Grand Slam champion, a former world No.1 currently ranked 66, held his nerve to move into the third round for the eighth time in his career at the conclusion of a match that will be remembered as a classic. And despite the time, there were still plenty of spectators there to witness the incredible turnaround. And some no doubt, were stunned!
Murray was certainly fazed as he answered the on-court interviewer.
“It was unbelievable that I managed turn that around,” he said. “Thanasi was serving unbelievably, hitting his forehand huge and I don’t know how I managed to get through it. I did start playing better as the match went on – and yes, I have a big heart!”
“The match was obviously very up and down,” he continued. “There was frustration and there was tension, there was excitement and all of that stuff. And then at the end … it’s obviously amazing to win the match but I also want to go to bed now. I’m like … it’s great but I want to sleep.”
Murray hopes early morning tennis matches will be eradicated, describing the spectacle as “a bit of a farce” and not good for players, fans and officials alike. “I don’t know who it’s beneficial for.
“A match like that … we come here after the match and that’s what the discussion is, rather than it being like, ‘epic Murray-Kokkinakis match’, it ends in a bit of a farce.
“Amazingly people stayed until the end, and I really appreciate people doing that and creating an atmosphere for us at the end. I really appreciate that.”
He will now face Roberto Bautista Agut, the 24th seed from Spain, who also needed five sets to beat American Brandon Holt 4-6 2-6 6-3 6-2 6-2.
Earlier Dan Evans had successfully made round three when he beat Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.
The British No2, won comfortably 6-4 6-4 6-2 but the French veteran was unhappy the umpire did not call let on break point in the first set when a ball fell out of his pocket.
The rule states that if the ball didn’t hinder his opponent, then the point stands. Chardy claimed it hindered him but as it was his ball that fell out, the rule didn’t apply.
Evans, 32, took that pivotal break when Chardy hit into the net and went on to wrap up victory in less than two hours.
“You never go out there looking for a fast one but once I got on top it was important to stay on top and take care of the third set,” said Evans, whose best run in Melbourne came in 2017 when he reached the fourth round.
“I let three break points go in the first game of the third set but in the end I did a good job.”
Evans faces the fifth seed Andrey Rublev next.