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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