Murray Returns To Australian Open For First Time Since 2019

Andy Murray (photo: Rob Prezioso / Tennis Australia)

MELBOURNE/WASHINGTON, January 18, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Great Britain’s Andy Murray has been a five-time finalist in the Australian Open. He has history in the year’s first major going back to 2006. The last time he played in Melbourne in 2019, he was in tears and looking at the possibility of retirement due to a increasingly painful hip.

On Tuesday, the 113th-ranked Murray, who received a wild card to play in this year’s event, took court for his first match at Melbourne Park since 2019. In the third match of the day on John Cain Arena, the Briton faced Georgia’s 21st-seeded Nikoloz Basilashvili for the second time in a week. He won 6-1, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-4 in three hours and 52 minutes of play to advance against 120th-ranked Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel.

“It is amazing [to be back],” Murray said in during his on-court interview that followed his victory. “It has been a tough three, four years. I have put a lot of work to be back here and I have played on this court many times and the atmosphere has been incredible. I have always had fantastic support and this is the court I thought I potentially played my last match on. But it is good to be back, winning a five-set battle like that. I could not ask for any more.”

Last week at the Sydney Tennis Classic, Murray prevailed and went on to reach his first ATP tour-level in more than two years, falling to No. 1 seed Aslan Karatsev in the final. Murray also won the pair’s only other previous meeting at Wimbledon last year. He has been playing virtually non-stop since last fall’s US Open and has shown signs of regaining his old form now that he has gone through hip surgery and rehabilitation.

Against Basilashvili, Murray stood to make a bit of history with a third victory. He was aiming for his 49th match-win at the Australian Open, which would give him sole possession of fifth place on the all-time list for most victories in Melbourne in the Open Era (since 1968), and put him ahead of Andre Agassi and Ivan Lendl.

An upset to kick off Day Two

For the second year in a row, Sorana Cirstea upset Petra Kvitova at the Australian Open. The 38th-ranked Romanian beat the 20th-seeded and two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova from the Czech Republic, 6-2, 6-2, Tuesday afternoon on John Cain Arena.

Among the other early Day Two winners:

Men – No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia advanced over Gianluca Mager of Italy, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2;  13 seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina defeated Filip Krajinovic of Serbia, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5; No. 15 seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain, beat Stefanos Travaglia of Italy, 7-6 (2), 6-4, 5-7, 6-1; and No. 27 Marin Cilic of Croatia eliminated qualifier Emilio Gomez of Ecuador, 6-3, 6-1, 6-2.

Women – No. 6 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia defeated Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic, 6-2, 6-3; No. 7 Iga Swiatek of Poland advanced over qualifier Harriet Dart of Great Britain, 6-3, 6-0; No. 19 Elise Mertens of Belgium bested Vera Zvonareva of Russia, 6-4, 7-5; and No. 31 seed Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic defeated Australian wild card Priscilla Hon, 6-2, 6-3.

Tuesday’s Australian Open results

Wednesday’s Australian Open order of play

Difficulty ahead for Djokovic if he remains unvaccinated

On Monday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, in answering a question from a reporter on whether current World No. 1 Novak Djokovic would be allowed to enter Spain to compete after being deported from Australia for being unvaccinated against COVID-19, said: “Any sportsperson who wishes to compete in our country must comply with the health rules of Spain.”

Evert shares details of her treatment for ovarian cancer on ESPN

On Monday evening in the United States, Hall of Fame great and long-time ESPN tennis analyst Chris Evert made her debut on the network’s Australian Open TV coverage.

What they’re writing

The Age: Djokovic’s absence does not put an asterisk on the men’s title

The Washington Post: Novak Djokovic is driven by an obsession, but that always has a cost

• The New York Times: After Quarantine, Keeping Up the Korda Family Tradition

• The tarnished legacy of Novak Djokovic

What they’re podcasting

• The Tennis Podcast: Nadal, Barty, Badosa soothe our souls

• No Challenges Remaining: Djokovic’s Deportation Debacle Is Done

By the numbers

• World No. 3 Garbiñe Muguruza made her 101st Australian Open main draw appearance when she faced France’s 77th-ranked Clara Burrel on Tuesday. The No. 3 seed Muguruza, who has never lost a first-round appearance at Melbourne Park going back to 2013, defeated the 20-year-old Burel, 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the second round against No. 61 Alizé Cornet of France, who beat 118th-ranked Bulgarian qualifier Viktoriya Tomova.

“I am aware, I am aware,” Muguzura said, sharing a hint of laugher during her on-court interview when she was asked if she was aware she had a perfect streak of winning all of her first-round matches in the Australian Open.  “I am so motivated here … you are so nervous when everybody can beat everyone, so very happy I managed to finish it off.”

Rafael Nadal is attempting to become just the second man after Novak Djokovic to win all four majors at least twice. Nadal is also trying to become the third man in the Open Era (since 1968) to win the Australian Open after turning 35, following Ken Rosewall and Roger Federer.

• Former Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber won her first Grand Slam at Melbourne in 2016. She is one of eight active players to win more than 100 matches at the majors.

“Quotable …”

“Obviously you want to win. If you play tennis or any sport, you’re competitive. I couldn’t have done this for this long if I wasn’t competitive. But first and foremost, I want to go out there, enjoy myself, play well, be free, swing. If I want to hit, go for that winner down the line, I’m going to do it. I think it’s about playing and enjoying that moment and soaking it all up.”

Samantha Stosur, 37, of Australia, former World No. 4 now ranked 487th, who is playing her final singles draw at the Australian Open.

On Tuesday, Stosur beat Robin Anderson of the United States, 6-7, 6-3, 6-3, with 12 aces and 36 winners, to advance to the second round. After the Australian Open, Stosur will continue to play doubles where she’s ranked No. 15. Stosur won the 2011 US Open singles title.