Back in the ATP Top 100 for the first time since 2018, Andy Murray reminded fans of his world-class abilities on Wednesday evening.
The former World No. 1 showed plenty of his trademark grit and staggering court-coverage to defeat World No. 31 Alexander Bublik 7-6(6), 6-4 and reach the second round of the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam.
“There were some tough moments in the first set for both of us,” said wild card Murray after the match. “I just managed to come through at the end of it. Some great returns off some big second serves from him at the end and I did a good job. It’s not easy playing against someone like that, huge serves, a lot of drop shots and you’ve got to keep your focus and I did that well tonight.”
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The only previous meeting between the pair had taken place in markedly different circumstances back in 2017. Murray beat Bublik in straight sets in the first round at that year’s Wimbledon, a tournament at which the Brit was the top seed and Bublik a 135th-ranked lucky loser.
The Kazakh has come a long way since then and picked up both his first ATP Tour title and the biggest win of his career by defeating World No. 3 Alexander Zverev in the final of the Open Sud de France in Montpellier last week.
A gripping first set saw both players miss early break point opportunities, before Montpellier champion Bublik finally broke through on the Murray serve for a 6-5 lead. He was unable to serve out the set, however, as a poor service game allowed Murray to force a tie-break.
Some trademark scarpering from Murray edged him ahead in the tie-break but he still needed three set points to win it 8/6, the Kazakh refusing to be overrun.
Murray stayed aggressive throughout, hitting 27 winners as there were signs that Bublik’s exploits in France last week were starting to catch up with him physically. The energetic Brit effectively read a series of Bublik drop shots as he broke for 4-3 in the second set before closing out victory.
Murray’s next opponent will be third seed Felix Auger-Aliassime after the Canadian overcame a slow start to beat qualifier Egor Gerasimov in three sets earlier on Wednesday. Auger-Aliassime won his only meeting with three-time Grand Slam champion Murray in straight-sets at the 2020 US Open.
“[I’m] looking forward to that one,” said Murray on the second-round clash. “He [Auger-Aliassime] started the year pretty well and is one of the best young players just now. I’ll need to be on my game if I want to beat him, but it’s a great test for me and we’ll see what happens out there.”