Andy Murray’s volatile post-hip surgery adventures continued Sunday in the California desert. The three-time Grand Slam singles champion fell to Alexander Bublik 7-6(9), 6-3 in a second-round match at the BNP Paribas Open.
In his Indian Wells main draw debut, the ascendant 24-year-old from Kazakhstan played a forceful, confident match against a man 10 years his senior. It was his first win over Murray in three attempts. The final stroke, a deftly carved drop shot that Murray had no chance to run down, neatly captured the difference.
“For me, it’s great to have a win here,” Bublik said in his on-court interview. “It’s really tennis paradise. To beat Andy, finally – if he would be my age, it would have been a lot tougher.”
Technically, this wasn’t an upset, as Bublik is the No. 31 seed, and Murray is No. 88 in the ATP Rankings and playing on a wildcard at Indian Wells, attempting to return from a 2019 operation that saw doctors insert a metal rod into his femur to repair a deteriorating hip joint. Last month Bublik scored a career breakthrough, winning the Open Sud de France title in Montpellier, defeating World No. 3 Alexander Zverev in the final. That raised his ranking to a career-high No. 30.
The difference in this match came in the rousing first-set tie-break. Murray held three set points, but couldn’t convert them; at 9-all, Murray missed a backhand wide and then watched as Bublik hit a forehand winner. The first set alone consumed 71 minutes.
“Of course, if you win a breaker 11-9, it means a lot,” Bublik said. “It was a great battle.”
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With Murray serving at 1-2 in the second, he was broken for the first and only time in the match. Bublik, meanwhile, fought off all six break points against Murray. He finished with 37 winners, including 11 aces, balanced by 28 unforced errors. He’ll play the winner of Grigor Dimitrov and Jordan Thompson in the third round.
For Bublik, this was a long time coming. “I have a tough relationship with Indian Wells,” he said. “I haven’t played for four years. I broke my ankle here, my first big injury here. I could not come the next years… But I managed to get through and I’m happy with the win.”