Murray comes through four set epic on Wimbledon return
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Two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray won his first match back at The Championships for four years after beating Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 in three hours and 16 minutes.
Murray has never lost an opening round match at Wimbledon and holds his record with an outstanding performance to knock out the 24th seed.
The first set was evenly balanced, both players starting well on serve and giving each other little opportunity to get an early advantage. Murray had the edge in the longer exchanges and it was clear that Basilashvili would try to use powerful groundstrokes to keep the rally count low.
Facing the Georgian’s serve at 5-4, Murray got the first break point of the match and seized it as Basilashvili’s backhand sunk into the net.
The match opened up a bit for the World No.28 in the second set. He had break points in back-to-back games but each time Murray rose to the challenge.
After holding on twice, Murray turned the set in his favour showing exceptional variety and defence to force the Georgian into a couple of big errors to give the Brit a 5-3 lead. He served the set out with a comfortable hold – finishing with a flourish on a delicate backhand drop shot.
The first five games of the third set were vintage Murray – the former World No.1 was striking the ball perfectly, not giving his opponent an inch to work in. He cruised to a 5-0 lead, but with the match seemingly over, Basilashvili came to life.
From nowhere the Georgian raised his game - he barely missed a shot and his relentless groundstrokes piled the pressure on Murray. The Brit had a handful of match points in the set but an extraordinary display from Basilashvili saw him win seven straight games to clinch the most unlikely of comebacks.
After a short break for the roof to come over Centre Court – Murray came out fighting. A pair of breaks gave him the 3-1 lead and missed opportunities to extend for a third.
Sensing he would get another chance to eventually see out the match, Murray stayed solid on serve. With the pressure on he showed the resilience that Murray has become famous for.
Facing the Basilashvili serve at 5-3 and deuce he hit an unplayable backhand cross court return and saw out a well-deserved win by forcing the Georgian to spray the ball wide.
“It’s amazing to be back out here playing again on Centre Court. It’s such a brilliant atmosphere and something that since I came back to play in the last eight, nine months I really missed playing in front of the fans.
“I did well to win that fourth set in the end because it was not easy mentally going back into the locker room after losing the third.
“I had to remember what I was doing in a winning position and cut out some of the drop shots and serve slightly better to turn it around in the fourth.
“I feel very lucky that I get to do it again. I keep getting asked if it’s my last Wimbledon or if it’s my last match and I don’t know why I keep getting asked – no I’m going to keep playing, I want to play.
“I’m enjoying it and I can still play at the highest level- he’s ranked 28 in the world and I’ve hardly played any matches and I beat him.”
Earlier in the day, Britain’s Jack Draper put in an impressive performance against 19-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic but despite winning the first set, the Brit lost 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.
Making your Wimbledon debut on Centre Court against the World No.1 and reigning champion would be more than enough to faze most players, but not Draper.
The 19-year-old Brit managed to stay poised after saving a break point on his opening service game – the first of seven in the set – and got the crowd on their feet as he launched an assault on the Djokovic serve.
He completed the early break and held his nerve to serve out the rest of the set – winning 85% of points on his first serve.
Djokovic has never lost to a player outside the top 120 in the world at a Grand Slam and he wasn’t going to let this one slip without a fight. The six-time champion raised his game to a level above the Brit and made it difficult for Draper to stay within touching distance.
Draper battled hard but the Serbian put on a serving masterclass in the final three sets, notching up 25 aces and seeing out the victory.
“He definitely deserves a round of applause - walking onto Wimbledon Centre Court for the first time, I think he’s done extremely well," said Djokovic.
“He carried himself very maturely on court, he behaved well, he backed himself and he believed that he could come back and he deserves credit for that – I wish him all the best for the rest of his career.”
Katie Boulter became the first British star through to the second round to Wimbledon after coming from a set behind to defeat Danielle Lao 6-7 (8), 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 30 minutes.
An inspired performance from Boulter – who recently reached the semi-finals at the Viking Open Nottingham – saw her come from a break and 3-1 down in the final set to clinch her second career victory at SW19.
In the next round, she will face second seed Aryna Sabalenka who won the first match of the day on Court 1 against Monica Niculescu 6-1, 6-4.
Liam Broady became the first Brit through in the men’s draw after he upset World No.86 Marco Cecchinato 6-3. 6-4, 6-0. Broady is through to the second round of the main draw for the second time in his career and will play the winner of Diego Schwartzman and Benoit Paire, with the Argentinian currently holding a 2-0 lead.
British No.2 Heather Watson, who closed out the day on Court No.1 with an agonising three set defeat to Kristie Ahn, losing out 2-6, 7-6 (3), 8-6.
Katie Swan and Jodie Burrage also lost first round clashes to highly-ranked American stars on day one.
Swan – who became the first British women to come through qualifying for Wimbledon in 20 years – was defeated 6-3, 6-4 in a tough battle against former US Open finalist and 23rd seed Madison Keys. Meanwhile Burrage lost 6-2, 6-1 against World No.91 Lauren Davis.
Jay Clarke will continue his first round match against Egor Gerasimov tomorrow with the Belarusian leading 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5).