Andy Murray came through an epic first-round battle with Frances Tiafoe at the European Open, winning 7-6 (7-2), 6-7 (7-9), 7-6 (10-8) in Antwerp after almost four hours.
The former world No 1 showed great stamina to deny his 23-year-old opponent at the end of three tie-breaks and set up a second-round meeting with Diego Schwartzman. “It is the longest three-set match I have ever played by quite a distance,” Murray said afterwards. “It was an unbelievable battle.”
Returning to the scene of his last singles title in 2019, Murray was on the back foot early as Tiafoe opened up a 3-1 lead in the first set. The American then needed an extensive medical time out for what looked like a back problem. Murray broke back to level at 5-5, only for both men to lose their next service games with Tiafoe missing a set point.
Murray took the first set after winning the tie-break 7-2, closing it out with a double mini-break followed by back-to-back aces. The second set was another tight affair, as both players dug deep to fend off break chances to remain on serve, with Murray saving a set point to hold and force another tie-break.
Tiafoe took the upper hand, with a booming forehand down the line helping him on his way to a set point – only for Murray to respond again and level at 6-6. Tiafoe, die wêreld Nee 48, eventually took the set at the sixth attempt as the match approached the three-hour mark.
In the decider, both players failed to hold after a break early in the set, with Tiafoe holding on under pressure when serving to stay in the match at 5-4 down. In the final tie-break, Murray gained an early advantage but was pulled back to 5-5, before Tiafoe earned a match point which the 34-year-old saved with a booming serve.
Murray took his first match point at 9-8 when Tiafoe hit into the net to bring an end to the contest after three hours and 46 minute.
“Nowadays my body is old, I have played a lot of matches on the tour – but that was taking it to another level,” Murray said. “It was a brilliant match with an amazing atmosphere. It is just so nice to be playing in front of crowds again, especially so early in the week. I will use my day off tomorrow to try to rest and hopefully feel OK for Thursday.”