HIP, HIP HOORAY!
Magnificent Murray shrugs off injury hell to win five-set epic
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.