Tennis

Andy Murray records biggest victory in 13 months as comeback gathers further momentum

Andy Murray and Ash Barty pay tribute to each other

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Andy Murray recorded his biggest victory in over a year as he beat world No.26 Ugo Humbert in Metz on Tuesday evening (September 21). It marks the highest-ranked player that the three-time Grand Slam champion has recorded a win over since last year’s Western & Southern Open. After an impressive showing at the US Open, where Murray pushed third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas to five sets, the current world No.113 is now keen to keep winning matches and get his ranking up.

Murray is playing the ATP 250 in Metz this week – his first official tour-level event since challenging third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, and second event after a Challenger last week.

The former world No.1 has been gaining some momentum in his comeback, after being left unable to compete in multiple tournaments earlier in the season.

A positive Covid test meant he was unable to find a ‘workable quarantine’ to play in the Australian Open, and he later missed the ATP 500 event in Dubai following the birth of his fourth child, then withdrew from the Miami Open with a groin injury before deciding to skip the clay-court season altogether.

After facing a tough first-round opponent in top seed and eventual-champion Matteo Berrettini on the grass courts of Queens, the 46-time title winner was able to get some impressive wins under his belt at Wimbledon, where he beat 24th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili in four sets and defeated qualifier Oscar Otte in a five-set battle before losing to 10th seed Denis Shapovalov in straight sets.

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After recording a couple of first-round wins over fellow tour-veteran Richard Gasquet and lucky loser Noah Rubin in the lead-up to the US Open, Murray showed a glimpse of his old self when he took Tsitsipas to five sets in a popcorn first-round match in Flushing Meadows.

Though the Brit was unable to close the match out, pushing a top-three player and the recent French Open finalist was the perfect starting ground for the 34-year-old to push on and pick up momentum to string some wins together.

He faced another difficult opener at the Moselle Open in Metz, drawing sixth seed and home favourite Ugo Humbert in the first round, but was able to come from a set down to record his best victory in 13 months.

By beating the world No 26 4-6 6-3 6-2, Murray secured his best win since beating then-world No.7 Alexander Zverev in the second round of the Western & Southern Open in August 2020, when the event was held in Flushing Meadows as a one-off.

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The former world No.1 was happy to record a win over the 23-year-old and admitted that he’s more interested in getting more victories under his belt than playing well but losing.

“Winning is all that matters to me,” he said after picking up the best win of his 2021 season.

“There are two things that matter — your effort and your attitude, which is probably No. 1 as that’s what you can control. For me sport is about that. You either win or lose.”

Since reaching the top of the rankings at the end of 2016 after going on a 24-match winning streak, Murray spent most of the next few years hampered by a hip injury, undergoing two surgeries including a resurfacing at the start of 2019.

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He was able to make a return to doubles action at Queens that year and won the title alongside Feliciano Lopez, then winning his first post-surgery singles title at the ATP 250 in Antwerp later that year, but was plagued by more injuries at the start of 2020 before the tour was suspended during the pandemic.

His current form looks to be the best since winning Antwerp, and the world No.113 will be keen to get some more wins under his belt during the European indoor hard court swing, where he can take advantage of slightly easier draws that don’t contain the likes of Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev.

Despite relatively impressive performances at Wimbledon and the US Open, Murray is now adjusting his focus and looking to win matches rather than prove he can play well while suffering defeat, saying: “I’m not particularly interested in losing and playing well.”

In the second round on Wednesday, Murray faces Vasek Pospisil, who is now ranked No.66 in the world but has previously been as high as world No.25.
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