Dubai Tennis Championships: Andy Murray ‘toughs it out’ to beat Christopher O’Connell

Andy Murray
Murray showed his trademark hustle to stay in the match in Dubai

Andy Murray says he still believes he can “compete at the highest level” after battling past Christopher O’Connell in round one of the Dubai Tennis Championships.

The Briton, 34, fell behind against the world number 158 but won 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 7-5 in two hours and 51 minutes.

Murray, who had major hip surgeries in 2018 and 2019, saved seven of eight break points to stay in the match.

“I enjoyed the result. What went on the middle, not so easy,” he said.

The world number 89 continued: “I was very frustrated early on in the match, I couldn’t quite find my game. I managed to serve a bit better as the match went on which helped me a lot and just managed to tough it out in the end.”

He will now face either Italian fourth seed Jannik Sinner or Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in round two.

In January 2019 – before undergoing his second hip surgery – Murray was visibly emotional when telling the media he might be set to play his last tournament.

Asked how, three years on from that moment, he finds what is needed to stay competitive in such testing matches Murray – winner of the event in 2017 – told Amazon Prime: “I’ve spoken to a lot of ex-players.

“A lot have said ‘keep playing as long as you can, nothing will replace it’. Some have regretted maybe stopping a little bit too soon.

“I still feel I can compete at the highest level. It’s not easy, physically it’s very challenging for me, but winning matches like that is very satisfying.”

Last week Murray exited the Qatar Open having won just one game in a 6-0 6-1 defeat by Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut.

Against Australia’s O’Connell he was visibly frustrated early on, smashing his racquet late in the opening set.

In the first set he only managed to get 44% of his first serves into play, a figure that rose to 58% by the end of the match.

But his refusal to be beaten was never more evident than at 4-4 in the decider, when he saved four break points.

The rally to bring up match point was vintage Murray as he worked tirelessly to keep a lost cause alive at the back of the court before sprinting to the net to just reach a ball and pass O’Connell.

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