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Andy Murray battles to European Open win against Frances Tiafoe

Andy Murray applauded adversary Frances Tiafoe off the court after saving two match points before winning an epic three-set encounter lasting three hours and 45 minutes at the European Open in Antwerp on Tuesday.

Murray, who suffered a second round defeat to Tiafoe at the Winston-Salem Open in August, showed how far he has come in the last couple of months as he gained revenge with a 7-6 (7-2) 6-7 (7-9) 7-6 (10-8) triumph.

The two-time Wimbledon champion will at least get a day off before returning to face second seed Diego Schwartzman on Thursday.

“I don’t think I’ve played a match like that. I think it’s the longest three-set match that I’ve ever played by quite a distance,” Murray said in his on-court interview. “I’m tired right now. It was an unbelievable battle.

“He kept coming up with brilliant serves and great shots when I was getting chances.

“My body is old now, I’ve played a lot of matches on the tour so I don’t mind playing long matches but that was taking it to another level.” Murray enjoyed a dream run in Belgium’s port city two years ago for his first title following hip surgery.

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He looked on course for a first-round victory when he came through a 78-minute first set in which he found himself 1-2, 5-6 and a set point down before prevailing in a tie-break.

The second set was even longer at one hour and 21 minutes and although the former world No 1 showed his battling qualities, saving five set points, world No 48 Tiafoe finally took his opportunity at the sixth attempt with a crushing forehand half-volley.

Murray and Tiafoe traded breaks of serve midway through the decider, which was inevitably settled in a final-set tie-break.

The American failed to take his two match points permitting world No 172 Murray to get the job done with a brilliant drop shot.

Murray added: “It’s just so nice to be back playing in front of crowds again and it’s so important for events like this to get crowd support at the beginning of the week.

“I’ll use my day off tomorrow to try and rest and hopefully be okay for Thursday.”

Jenson Brooksby continued his good form with a 6-4 6-4 victory versus fifth seed Reilly Opelka, while San Diego-native Brandon Nakashima also impressed in a 6-4 6-0 win against sixth seed Alex de Minaur.

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Anthony Smith dominates light heavyweight bout with first-round submission of Ryan Spann

Anthony Smith stated two years ago after a title loss to all-time great Jon Jones that maybe he’d never get another opportunity to defeat Jones.

But that was OK, Smith said, because he’d simply outlast Jones — and the rest of the UFC light heavyweight division.

Those comments have aged pretty well.

Smith took out another up-and-comer Saturday night, submitting Ryan Spann with a rear-naked choke at 3:47 of the first round in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas.

Smith dropped Spann twice with punches and then finished the job on the ground with his grappling acumen in an outstanding performance.

Smith has five first-round finishes since 2018, tied with Vicente Luque for the most in the UFC during that stretch, per ESPN Stats & Info.

“He’s got the skills,” Smith said in his postfight interview. “I think I’m better.” After referee Herb Dean stopped the fight following Spann’s tap, Smith started jawing at Spann.

The two men had to be separated by security and their teams. Smith took umbrage with some of the trash talk coming from Spann and his team leading up to this fight. But cooler heads prevailed and the two ended up embracing and exchanging pleasantries.

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Smith stated after the bout he wants another streaking prospect next: Aleksandar Rakic. The two fought in August 2020 with Rakic winning by unanimous decision.

“He’s just sitting around,” Smith said. “He’s not next in line for the title. Either I want that fight or I skip it.”

Rakic tweeted seconds later that he was free in December. To that, Smith responded: “Merry Christmas to me.”

Smith clipped Spann with a left hand behind the ear that dropped him early in the first round during an exchange.

Spann was able to get back to his feet after escaping an armbar attempt.

When the two got into another striking exchange, Smith was able to land a big left followed by a right hand that hurt Spann. Another right put Spann down; Smith took his back in a scramble and then cinched in the choke that ended things.

Smith (36-16) has won three consecutive — all by finish — and was coming off a first-round TKO victory over prospect Jimmy Crute.

The Nebraska native lost to Jones, who has since vacated the belt and left the division, at UFC 235 in March 2019. He is 4-2 since then. Smith, 33, has been very solid since moving up to light heavyweight from middleweight in 2018, going 7-3 with wins over former champions Rashad Evans and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, as well as former multiple-time title challenger Alexander Gustafsson.

Spann (19-7) was seeking his first real signature win against a top light heavyweight. The Texas resident was coming off a first-round TKO win over Misha Cirkunov in March.

Spann, 30, has won nine of his last 11 fights and is a former LFA light heavyweight champion.

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