Andy Murray battles back to defeat German qualifier Oscar Otte
Andy Murray created more moments to savour on a raucous Centre Court as he battled from two sets to one down to defeat Oscar Otte and reach the third round of a grand slam for the first time in four years.
Not since the 34-year-old limped through to the quarter-finals here in 2017, before his two hip operations and what he thought would be the end of his career, had Murray won two matches at a slam.
And it did not look likely to happen here either when, labouring and frustrated, he saw a lead erased and then reversed by German qualifier Otte, making his Wimbledon debut.
But Murray has come back from worse situations on the lawns of SW19 and, after a break for the roof to be closed, he found some of the old magic to win 6-3 4-6 4-6 6-4 6-2 and set up a third-round clash with 10th seed Denis Shapovalov.
Murray has spent much of the past four years rehabbing from a succession of injury issues, and he said: “A lot of what I’m doing now is harder than a lot of the stuff I was doing when I was in my mid-20s in many ways because of the physical issues that I have had and stuff.
“It’s tough obviously going out and playing matches of that length when you know you have not had many matches, not had loads of preparation. And not played a whole lot of grass-court tennis in four years.
“So it’s been tough. But that’s one of the reasons why I’m still playing is because of moments like that. Why would you want to give that up? The atmosphere, it was good the whole match, but especially the last hour and a half was brilliant. I still enjoy that.”
The two-time champion had awoken memories of times past against Nikoloz Basilashvili on Monday, salvaging a four-set victory under the roof after blowing a seemingly insurmountable lead in the third.
The big question was how well he had recovered physically and, although he began a little gingerly, he settled into the match well, making few errors and showing Otte the way around a grass court.
Murray broke the big-serving 27-year-old twice and seemed to be well on his way to round three when he moved 3-1 ahead in the second.
But a loose service game, coupled with a more aggressive approach from his opponent, turned the match completely on its head.
Otte, who led Alexander Zverev by two sets to love in the first round of the French Open, won four games in a row before serving out the second set, and it was a weary-looking Murray who was broken in the seventh game of the third.
The 34-year-old’s movement lacked sharpness and too often his shots did not have sufficient weight behind them to put Otte under any real pressure.
There was a worrying moment for Murray and his many fans inside Centre Court when he became the latest player to slip in the second game of the fourth set, letting out a cry and clutching his groin.
But there did not appear to be any lasting damage and two games later the match was paused so the roof could be closed.
Against Basilashvili, the closing of the roof had helped Murray turn the match back in his favour and there were positive signs on the resumption as the Scot found a bit more pop on his shots and in his legs and broke for 4-2.
The cheers turned to groans when Murray was unable to serve it out at 5-3 but he showed once again that his competitive desire knows no bounds by breaking again to force a decider.
There may not be many more opportunities for the Scot to experience such moments and he drank it all in as he broke to lead 3-0 then survived several long service games before clinching victory with a trademark lob.
Speaking to the crowd, Murray said with a slightly rueful smile: “I enjoyed the end, the middle part not so much. I had to do something differently.
“I started going for my shots more, started dictating more of the points. I think I played the right way the last couple of sets.
“I’m obviously tired. I fell over a couple of times, pretty slick courts. Considering everything, I feel all right. Hopefully I come out on Friday and play in another atmosphere like this and hopefully perform well.”
Murray engaged with several vocal fans during the match, and he said afterwards: “I hope the fans like it and don’t think that it’s a bit weird that I’m sort of staring at them and screaming at them for like an hour, but they seem to enjoy it as well.”
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