Andy Murray rolled back the years to overcome Yoshihito Nishioka in the US Open first round yesterday. The Brit came back from two sets and a break down to win 4-6 4-6 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-4) 6-4.
Due to COVID-19 the US Open is being played in a "bubble", with no outside spectators allowed. This results in a decidedly flat atmosphere in the stadiums, where the main source of noise is the players themselves. Perhaps this contributed to Murray's early malaise. Perhaps it was the hot and humid conditions. Either way, the Brit was a shadow of his normal self for the first two sets.
Nishioka was playing well, but Murray almost seemed resigned to defeat from the outset. Five double faults and 30 unforced errors barely elicited a response at all, let alone the sort of fiery self admonishment Murray is famed for.
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Finally, tentatively, signs of life emerged on court. As Murray's volume increased and his energy levels rose the Brit started to find his range. A scintillating forehand brought up set point in the third set tie-break and the bellow that followed when Nishioka netted a backhand signalled that the real Murray was back.
The fourth set was similarly close, and Murray had to save match point at 6-5 down. He did so with a trademark cross court backhand, and then cantered through the deciding tie-break.
Both players were visibly fatigued in the fifth set, and Murray slipped a break down early on. He reversed the deficit the next game, converting break point with a pin point backhand lob. A final break at 5-4 sealed a remarkable victory.
Whatever happens in the rest of the tournament, this victory caps a remarkable turnaround for a player who 18 months ago looked to have played his last grand slam.
Murray will play Felix Auger-Aliassime in the second round.