The second day at the Australian Open saw the reigning US Open champion Daniil Medvedev open his account as did the five-time Melbourne Andy Murray who turned back the clock to score another epic five-set victory in what proved to be an action packed day.
It is where I thought I had potentially played my last match but to win a five-set battle like that, I couldn't have asked anymore. Andy Murray
The highlight was the re-emergence of Murray’s dogged and combative performance which reminded everyone of his pre-hip operation days when he last played at the AO and tearfully intimated it might be his swan song from the tour.
The 34-year-old, ranked 111 following his final appearance last week in Sydney, a wildcard, entry, showed all the fighting qualities that made him a three-time Grand Slam champion.
His epic three-hour, 52-minute 6-1 3-6 6-4 6-7(5) 6-4 victory over Georgia’s 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili, a player he had also beaten last week in Sydney, was hugely symbolic as it was on that same court, the John Cain Arena (Daniel (previously known as the Melbourne Arena) )where he lost to Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut, that nearly ended. His career in 2019.
And now two years later, he was ‘back and winning’.
“It’s amazing to be back and winning a five-set battle like that, I couldn’t ask for anymore,” the Scot said.
Murray cruised through the first set in 23-minutes, but any hopes of a routine win disappeared as Basilashvili recovered after shaking off his initial nerves, to play his part in a nerve-racking match for Murray fans.
The second set saw Murray’s serve broken three times on the way to his opponent levelling.
An entertaining third set was edged by Murray at the fourth opportunity, but the Scot was pegged back again when Basilashvili started hitting lines with crunching winners to take control of the tie-break.
But, with the crowd behind him, Murray summoned the energy to win the decider. He moved into a 3-0 lead and, although Basilashvili fought back to 4-4, the Briton sealed his place in the last 64 on his third match point.
The 34-year-old now goes on to play Japanese qualifier Taro in round two on Thursday.
“It’s amazing,” Murray said shortly after his hard-earned victory.
“It’s been a tough three or four years but I’ve put in a lot of hard work to get here.
“I’ve played on this court many times and the atmosphere is always incredible.
“It is where I thought I had potentially played my last match but to win a five-set battle like that, I couldn’t have asked anymore.”
There were moments after long rallies where Murry looked spent and no doubt a day’s rest will be very welcome in his bid to go deep in Melbourne.
“Hopefully keep improving – there are things in my game I could do better,” he admitted.
“I would like to have a deep run. It’s something I haven’t had since I came back from injury – and I hope I can do it in this tournament.”
Murray was one of three Brits in action on Tuesday in the men’s draw but only Dan Evans was able to join him in the second round.
The 31-year-old Evans, the 24th seed, defeated David Goffin 6-4 6-3 6-0 by outplaying the Belgian, a former AO quarter-finalist, especially in the second and third sets.
He will play Arthur Rinderknech next after the Frenchman beat Australia’s Alexei Popyrin 7-5 4-6 6-2 3-6 6-3.
Liam Broady however, fell to Nick Kyrgios 6-4 6-4 6-3 and described the experience of playing the controversial Aussie as ’absolutely awful’ thanks to the sledging he received from the local fans during the match.
“The way he orchestrates the crowd, again, you see videos on TV, but it doesn’t do it justice when you’re playing in front of an Aussie crowd – Nick Kyrgios’ home court. It was pretty crazy out there. But glad to have got it out of the way,” Broady said.
“I mean (it was a) good experience and I think that’s the good thing about playing the great players is that you can always learn very quickly about what you need to work on.
“Everyone was telling me, like ‘Oh you’ll really enjoy it, it’s going to be amazing’. But I thought it was absolutely awful. I obviously wanted to go out there and win, so, I mean, losing matches in general isn’t enjoyable.”
Broady added: “The atmosphere was incredible, but it was, it’s the first time I’ve ever walked onto a tennis court and been booed, which for me was a crazy experience.
“You get sledged from the sides like you can’t believe – they don’t pick up on TV. So it was a very, very difficult atmosphere to try and handle and, like I said, he’s incredible at getting them behind him and he plays better for it.
“I think that’s very rare, especially in the sport of tennis. Now people don’t really interact with the crowd like he does and that’s one of his biggest strengths.
“But like I said, I’m glad to have played the match and to have got the experience, and for a Brit to go and play on John Cain against Kyrgios is probably one of the tougher atmospheres in tennis to play.”
There was no such problem for Russia’s Medvedev, the second seed and favourite to lift his second major, who made light work of 91st-ranked Henri Laaksonen on Rod Laver Arena, dismantling the Swiss 6-1 6-4 7-6(3) to take on Kyrgios and his sledging fans in round two.
With Djokovic out of the picture and Roger Federer not in Melbourne because of injury, the draw has opened up for the 25-year-old Medvedev and his main rival for the title, Spanish great Rafael Nadal.
But another contender for this year’s Aussie crown is Stefanos Tsitsipas, the Greek fourth seed, who was a comfortable 6-2 6-4 6-3 winner over his Swedish practice partner Mikael Ymer.
In other action the 35-year-old Richard Gasquet scored a surprising 3-6 7-6(4) 7-6(3) 6-3 win over his countryman Ugo Humbert in what was a very tight battle in the twilight stages of his career.
The same can be said about Philipp Kohlschreiber who at 38, is still capable of some very good tennis as he proved with his 6-4 7-5 7-6(0) win over the 2018 Roland Garros semi-finalist from Italy, Marco Cecchinato.
Andrey Rublev also secured a place in round two when he defeated another Italian, Gianluca Mager 6-3 6-2 6-2 but John Isner came up short for despite 39 aces, was unable to blow his American countryman Maxime Cressy, the Melbourne Summer Set finalist, off-court going down 7-6(2) 7-5 6-7(4) 6-7(4) 6-4.
Surprisingly Roberto Bautista Agut struggled to get past Italian Stefano Travaglia 7-6(2) 6-4 5-7 6-1 but no doubt will rediscover his resilient form for the next few rounds.