Andy Murray digs deep to pull off another improbable comeback

Andy Murray pumps his fist after winning in Qatar – Andy Murray digs deep to pull off another improbable comeback

Andy Murray is earning his wins the hard way this season. Returning to action in Doha, a month after his late-night exploits in Australia, Murray saved three match points before ousting Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego from the Qatar Open.

With mother Judy watching anxiously from his player box, Murray seemed to be on his way home when he slipped to 15-40 on his own serve in the dying stages of the deciding set.

Sonego was in full flow at this stage. An eye-catching stylist, he was playing with the rhythm of a marching band, the flourish of a musketeer, and the energy of a man eight years younger.

But while Sonego might be a charismatic player to watch, he also has a reputation for being a shaky closer. Murray saved the first match point via a steady 18-shot rally, and then fired down a pair of big serves to stave off the next two.

Even now, the job was far from done. Murray’s gritty hold had done no more than carry him to parity, at 5-5 in the deciding set. And he was soon in trouble again in the tie-break, dropping his first two service points to find himself trailing 3-0.

It took one of Murray’s trademark defensive lobs to steal back the initiative – and then Sonego’s nerve broke as he lost six straight points to hand Murray his 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 comeback victory.

Murray grinned broadly as he shook his fist in the direction of Judy, his assistant coach, Mark Hilton, and his physio, Phil Hayward. He still loves chiselling out these sorts of wins through sheer bloody-mindedness, even as he walks awkwardly between points at the age of 35.

His record this season now stands at W3 L1 – and two of those wins involved saving match points against Italian opposition.

The previous example came when Murray upset 13th seed Matteo Berrettini over five sets in the opening round of January’s Australian Open. He then came from two sets down to beat home hope Thanasi Kokkinakis in the subsequent match in Melbourne, which finished shortly after 4am.

Back in Doha, Murray will now take on the former world No2 Alexander Zverev. “He had a bad injury at the French Open last year,” said Murray of Zverev. “He’s not quite yet back to the level he was in the middle of last year.”