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HIP, HIP HOORAY!

Mag­nif­i­cent Mur­ray shrugs off in­jury hell to win five-set epic

- By MIKE DICKSON Ten­nis Cor­re­spon­dent Sports · Tennis · United States of America · US Open · New York County, NY · Japan · Jordan · Heather Watson · Murray · Flushing · Meadows · Maria Sharapova · Laura Robson

ANDY MUR­RAY pro­duced yet an­other as­ton­ish­ing Grand Slam fight­back to reach the US Open second round in New York last night.

The for­mer world No1 was down two sets to Ja­pan’s Yoshi­hito Nish­ioka as he strug­gled early on in his first sin­gles match at a major for 20 months. But the Scot, 33, stormed back to claim the third and fourth sets on tie breaks, sav­ing a match point along the way and set­ting up a de­cider.

And after an on- court med­i­cal time­out he clinched the fifth set 6-4 to com­plete a sen­sa­tional turn­around in just un­der five hours.

JO KONTA showed she is a cut above the rest of the Brit­pack as she over­pow­ered Heather Wat­son in straight sets. The world No13 was pushed all the way by Wat­son in a 73-minute first set which lived up to its Bat­tle of the Brits billing. But after sav­ing six set points and even­tu­ally com­ing out on top in a topsy-turvy tie-break, Konta crushed her Fed Cup team-mate in the second to ad­vance with an im­pres­sive 7-6, 6-1 win. As the only two Brits to make the women’s draw of the US Open, the ninth seed is now left fly­ing the flag alone as early as the second round. Yet her per­for­mance last night — in which she dis­played both her fight­ing qual­i­ties and ruth­less streak — proved she should be viewed as a real con­tender to claim her first Grand Slam ti­tle this month. Konta will be favourite to win her second-round tie against Ro­ma­nian So­rana Cirstea, the world No 77. With six of the top 10 women miss­ing from this year’s tour­na­ment, Konta would be dis­ap­pointed if she did not at least match her run to the quar­ter-fi­nals last year. The Bri­tish No1 was all smiles on Flush­ing Mead­ows’ Court 5 last night after her vic­tory — un­der the watch­ful eye of new coach Thomas Hog­st­edt, the man who once mas­ter­minded Maria Shara­pova. ‘Jo han­dled the cir­cum­stances well,’ said Anne Keothavong, who cap­tains Konta and Wat­son on the Fed Cup team. ‘It’s never easy play­ing a fel­low Brit.’ Konta is cer­tainly do­ing her bit for Bri­tish ten­nis right now, even if she does not share the best of

re­la­tion­ships with other play­ers from her coun­try. As re­cently as last month’s ‘Bat­tle of the Brits’ team event, Konta was mocked for not ap­pear­ing in Roe­hamp­ton on the fi­nal day, with Liam Broady parad­ing a card­board cutout in her ab­sence. Such be­hav­iour up­set Konta, who also re­acted an­grily last week when Laura Rob­son de­scribed her ap­point­ment of Hog­st­edt as ‘weird’. But Konta has al­ways got on well with Wat­son, even if their pre­vi­ous com­pet­i­tive court bat­tles have been some­what one-sided — Konta winning all three without drop­ping a set. The form and his­tory books sug­gested last night could have been an­other stroll for Konta, who im­pressed in her run to the semi-fi­nals of last week’s West­ern and South­ern Open. In con­trast, Wat­son had lost both of her matches since her re­turn from lock­down and she had never gone past the first round of the US Open in her pre­vi­ous eight at­tempts. But Wat­son was up for the fight in a thrilling first set. The pair stayed on serve un­til the ninth game, when Konta even­tu­ally broke Wat­son with her fourth break point of the set. How­ever, Konta failed to serve out for the set at 5-4 and then, serv­ing to stay in at 5-6, she had to save two set points. In the tie-break, Wat­son stormed into a 6-3 lead and, after wast­ing those, had a sixth set point at 7-6. But Konta kept pro­duc­ing big first serves and showed her killer in­stinct when, with her first set point, she saw the tie-break out and won it 9-7. It was a dev­as­tat­ing blow for Wat­son, who never re­cov­ered. The ruth­less Konta went a dou­ble break up at the start of the second set. Wat­son avoided a bagel when she saved a set point in her third ser­vice game, but Konta calmly fin­ished the job.

 ?? AP ?? Screamer: Mur­ray won from two sets down
AP Screamer: Mur­ray won from two sets down
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 ?? GETTY IM­AGES ?? Stretched: Mur­ray throws him­self into a serve
GETTY IM­AGES Stretched: Mur­ray throws him­self into a serve
 ?? GETTY IM­AGES ?? Point taken: Konta sur­vives an early scare to beat her ri­val Wat­son
GETTY IM­AGES Point taken: Konta sur­vives an early scare to beat her ri­val Wat­son

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