Former champion Andy Murray of Great Britain yesterday saved two match points to carve out a stunning win against Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego on day one at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open.
Trailing in the third set, Murray held his nerve in game 10 to force the set into a tie-breaker which he clinched with remarkable tennis from the baseline. After a battle that lasted 2 hours and 30 minutes, Murray won 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4).
The two-time champion, appearing in Doha with a wildcard this year, will now meet third seed Alexander Zverev of Germany in the second round of the $1.5mn tournament.
Trailing 3-0 in the tie-breaker, Murray reeled off six consecutive points and then sealed the match with an exquisite volley close to the net.
“It was really tough. We never played against each other before or practiced with each other,” Murray said with his mother Judy watching from the stands.
“I didn’t know exactly how the match was going to go and took a while to get used to his game. He’s a very aggressive player and takes a lot of chances, plays high-risk tennis and yeah, he rolled the dice at the end and thought it looked like, you know, he had the momentum. And then thankfully in the middle part of that tiebreak, he made a couple of mistakes and (I) managed to turn it around,” the 35-year-old said.
When asked about his match against Zverev, Murray reminded fans that his German rival is coming from a long lay-off after suffering a horrific twisted ankle at the French Open last year.
“He is obviously one of the top players in the world but he had a bad injury at the French Open last year and is just coming back from that,” Murray said. “He’s going to be improving every week just now. He’s not quite yet back at the level that he was in the middle of last year. But injuries take time (to heal). It will be another great match. Hopefully I can keep building on this one,” the Glasgow-born star added.
Murray, who braved eight aces from Sonego, thanked his fans for turning up at the iconic tennis venue where he won the titles in 2008 and 2009.
“I appreciate everyone coming out to support. I know it’s a work day and it’s late and it’s quite cold, but we all the players really appreciate it when the fans come out and create an atmosphere like that at the end. It helps us produce our best tennis. (I) really enjoy being back on the court here,” Murray said.
A long return and an unforced error followed by a double fault by Murray handed Sonego his first break in the opening game of the first set. Sonego held his serve with ease to double his lead at 2-0. Murray reduced the deficit in game three but Sonego was not to be denied in the next game (3-1). Both players held their serve and Sonego closed out the first set at 6-4 with a slick backhand down the line.
Murray held serve and then broke Sonego to go 2-0 in the second set. Murray retained his momentum to win the second set before the players exhibited quality tennis in the third which was decided in a tie-breaker won by the popular Briton.
Also yesterday, Doha-based Fernando Verdasco’s final appearance ended on a losing note when he went down to ‘late bloomer’ Christopher O’Connell of Australia in three sets.
O’Connell, after a dip of form in the second set, prevailed over his 39-year-old veteran 6-1, 3-6, 6-0 in 102 minutes. It was the first meeting between the two players.
O’Connell fired five aces yesterday.
“I am really proud as I haven’t had that many matches this year. This is my third visit. I love coming here. I am happy to have won my first match in Doha,” O’Connell said yesterday.
“I have been a late developer. I feel like my best tennis is yet to come. I am just trying to do the right things,” he added.
Earlier in the day, Jason Kubler advanced to round two when injured Aslan Karatsev of Russia pulled out of the second set trailing 7-6 (4), 1-0.


Matches start at: 2:30pm

Ilya Ivashka vs Botic Van De Zandschulp (NED) [8]
Followed by
Emil Ruusuvuori (FIN) vs Daniel Evans (GBR) [6]
Not before 6:00pm
[WC] Abedallah Shelbayh (JOR) vs Soonwoo Kwon (KOR)
Followed by
Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) [5] vs Marton Fucsovics (HUN)

Matches start at: 2:30pm

Tallon Griekspoor (NED) vs Quentin Halys (FRA)
Followed by
[Ll] Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) vs [Q] Alexandre Muller (FRA)
Followed by
[Q] Damir Dzumhur (BIH) vs Jiri Lehecka (CZE)
Followed by
Robin Haase (NED) Matwe Middelkoop (NED) [4] vs [WC] Malek Jaziri (TUN) Mubarak Shannan Zayid (QAT)

Matches start at: 2:30pm

Yuki Bhambri (IND) Saketh Myneni (IND) vs Tim Puetz (GER) Jan-Lennard Struff (GER)
Not Before 3:30pm
[WC] Liam Broady (GBR) Alexander Zverev (GER) vs Rohan Bopanna (IND) Matthew Ebden (AUS) [3]
Followed by
After suitable rest
Jason Kubler (AUS) John Peers (AUS) vs Tallon Griekspoor (NED) Bart Stevens (NED)
Followed by
After suitable rest

Constant Lestienne (FRA) Botic Van De Zandschulp (NED) vs Raven Klaasen (RSA) Hunter Reese (USA)
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