Andy Murray made hard work of his opening round win over Australian qualifier Christopher O’Connell as he won in a three set and three hour battle. The early signs showed that this would be a long match with Murray being a bit flat-footed and the Australian setting up good combinations for forehand winners. Both players were forced to save break points midway through the set as Murray couldn’t find the balance between power and variety.
As expected it was O’Connell who got the first breakthrough in the ninth game which resulted in Murray smashing his racket in frustration. However Murray showed his experience and court craft to find a way back as the Australian was pegged back to 5-5. Both players produced fairly comfortable holds so the opening set would be settled by a tiebreaker. It was O’Connell who displayed his power more consistently and would deal the fatal blows to take the tiebreak 7-4.
A response was what was needed from Murray and that’s exactly what was produced as he raised his level in the second set. A stunning return game in the opening saw him break to love as O’Connell was still on a high from winning the opening game. On serve Murray was much more powerful and made points short as he opened up the court perfectly to hit winners. The set was complete with a second break as the Brit levelled the match at one set all.
Both players battled in the final set with Murray returning to his flat self as on serve he struggled to dominate points allowing the Australian to be aggressive on return. Murray managed to save three break points and hold in a 13 minute ninth game to gain the crucial initiative at 5-4. That would be the crucial moment as Murray broke when it mattered most in the 12th game to clinch a hard-fought victory and seal his place in round two in Dubai.
Andy Murray [WC] v Jannik Sinner  H2H & Match Fundamentals
Sinner is playing his first tournament since reaching the Australian Open quarter-finals but that performance in Melbourne wasn’t enough to keep his coaching staff on board as he looks to crack the world’s top 10. Sinner has a big serve with big groundstrokes that can outpower any player on his day.
Murray will need to be use his slice to get into rallies but mix that up with aggressive shot-making to not allow Sinner any time to dictate the rallies. The Brit will need to maintain his energy throughout the match and not allow to be passive in big moments otherwise it could be a very short afternoon for the former world number one. Whatever happens it should be another test for Murray in his road for consistency.
As Murray heads into the second round, Dan Evans heads on the next flight home after a straight sets defeat to Andrey Rublevin Dubai. The Russian had too much consistent power as he broke in the important moments to seal a comfortable win. Despite breaking in the ninth game, Evans was broken on either side of that break as his serve lacked enough power to cause Rublev problems.
In the second set both players broke each other at the start of the set but Evans still had to remain resilient to hand with Rublev’s aggression. Despite saving four match points in the tenth game, Evans conceded a long service break in the 12th game to seal another win for Rublev.
Evans will now look to improve his form over in the United States when he plays Indian Wells next which starts on the 10th of March.
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