Another week, another Andy Murray comeback win in 2023.
The 46-time tour-level titlist showed trademark resilience to rally to a 4-6, 1-6, 7-6(4) first-round victory against Lorenzo Sonego on Monday at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open. The two-time champion saved three match points before prevailing at the ATP 250 tournament.
Murray saved the match points from 4-5, 15/40 on his own serve in the deciding set and later trailed 0/3 in the deciding tie-break. The 35-year-old raised his level in style from there, however, winning seven of the last eight points to clinch a two-hour, 30-minute win.
“It was really tough,” said Murray post-match. “We never played together, or practised with each other before, so I didn’t know exactly how the match was going to go and it took a while to get used to his game.
“He’s a very aggressive player, takes a lot of chances, but it’s high-risk tennis. He rolled the dice at the end, and it looked like he had the momentum, but thankfully in the mid-part of that tie-break he made a couple of mistakes and I managed to turn it round.”
It was the second tournament in a row where Murray’s first-round match was settled by a deciding-set tie-break. He also saved a match point before edging Matteo Berrettini in his opener at January’s Australian Open, where he later rallied from two-sets-to-love down to defeat Thanasi Kokkinakis in a second-round epic.
A slow start from Murray in Doha cost him dearly in the first set after Sonego broke the Briton to love in the first game. There were no further break points for either man as the Italian moved ahead, but Murray struck back in style in the second set, racing to a 5-0 lead that proved unassailable by staying aggressive and striking cleanly off both wings from the baseline.
The tension-filled third set appeared to be on the racquet of Sonego, who frequently painted the lines with some huge groundstrokes and at one stage won 13 points in a row on serve. Yet Murray was not to be denied, as his late charge earned the victory despite the former World No. 1 having hit just 20 winners to Sonego’s 34.
Monday’s win means Murray, who is a four-time finalist in Doha and lifted the trophy in 2008 and 2009, is now 7-0 in opening-round matches at the outdoor hard-court event. The 35-year-old Briton will play fourth seed Alexander Zverev in the second round as he bids to reach his first ATP Tour quarter-final of the season.
“He’s obviously one of the top players in the world,” said Murray of Zverev, against whom he holds a 2-1 ATP Head2Head series lead. “He had a bad injury at [Roland Garros] last year and is just coming back from that. He’s going to be improving every week just now.
“He’s not quite at the level he was back in the middle of last year, but injuries like that take time. It will be another great match, hopefully I can keep building on this one.”