Andy Murray in the second round of the 2023 Australian Open, Melbourne
Andy Murray in the second round of the 2023 Australian Open, Melbourne | (Photo by Andy Cheung/Getty Images)

Tennis | Australian Open 2023 | Murray wins longest match of career against Kokkinakis, faces Bautista Agut next

By Tony Fairbairn

  • Andy Murray def Thanasi Kokkinakis 4-6 6-7(4) 7-6(5) 6-3 7-5
  • Murray v Roberto Bautista Agut [24] | H2H: Tied at 3-3
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Andy Murray is into the third round after winning the longest match of his career against Thanasi Kokkinakis to set up a third round match with Roberto Bautista Agut.

 

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Andy Murray def Thanasi Kokkinakis 4-6 6-7(4) 7-6(5) 6-3 7-5

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Andy Murray is into the third round of the Australian Open after winning the longest match of his career against Thanasi Kokkinakis. The match lasted five hours and 45 minutes and ended at four o’clock in the morning as Murray once again displayed his mental and physical strength. It was Kokkinakis though who started the match the strongest as he displayed his brutal power from the baseline through his serve and forehand as he hit a ton of winners.

After Murray failed to convert three break points in the second game, Kokkinakis went to work on the Brit’s serve in the fifth game as he powered past Murray’s defence and broke for a 3-2 lead. The Brit never really got going in the opening set as he couldn’t neutralise the raw power of Kokkinakis, who created more break points in the next return game.

Murray came up with some clutch serving to fend off the latest Kokkinakis barrage but the Brit had no effect on return as the Australian finished off a world-class set of tennis with a powerful deep backhand as he took the opening set 6-4.

In the second set there was more aggression about Murray’s play as he made more first serves and produced some effective patterns of play to keep the points short. The Brit also came into the net more often as he looked for different way to neutralise Kokkinakis’s power. Despite increasing his level, Kokkinakis was still able to remain patient and find the right times to produce powerful winners past the Brit.

The Australian’s patience was rewarded as a sloppy service game saw Kokkinakis break to love as he would serve for a two sets lead, with Murray visibly frustrated at a time violation he received. However a common theme to this match would be Murray’s resilience and the Brit would continue to persevere in the next game as nerves played a part for the Australian. Some cheap errors from Kokkinakis allowed Murray to break back as the set was back on serve at 5-5.

In the end the second set would be decided by a tiebreak as both players held their nerve in an intense circumstance. The tiebreak would see Kokkinakis storm to an early lead as he continued to fire winners past a helpless Murray and the Australian never saw his lead slip away as an ace sealed a two sets to love lead.

A mountain to climb for Murray but it’s a mountain he has climbed on ten previous occasions and the Brit would be determined to do it for an 11th time. The trek up the mountain had a few bumps though including in the second game where Kokkinakis continued his fiery tennis to break for a 2-0 lead.

The response from Murray though was exceptional as he recovered and continued on his journey with an immediate break back. As Kokkinakis went on an irate rant to the umpire over a time violation, Murray broke back with the point of the tournament as four defensive lobs ended with a forehand error from the Australian.

Despite the slight slip-up from Kokkinakis, the Australian recovered from his recent meltdown to continue the assault on Murray’s defensive shot-making. A passive and sloppy game from Murray in the sixth game saw Kokkinakis break and then hold as he took a 5-2 lead in the third set.

As Kokkinakis closed in on the match, the pressure told as Murray forced the Australian to serve for the match and in typical Murray fashion broke back with some world class returning. As day six was approaching, a tiebreak would decide the result of the third set with Murray taking the lead twice but letting it slip twice. In the end it was a missed Kokkinakis smash, that would give the Brit the third set as this match would continue.

The momentum was firmly with Murray now as Kokkinakis’ legs got heavier and the Brit now looking like the fresher play. Some attacking play towards the net saw Murray get the crucial break at 4-2 in the fourth set with the five-time finalist also serving efficiently and with confidence. Despite a late surge from Kokkinakis, Murray held firm to send Margaret Court Arena into a frenzy as an ace saw him force a fifth and deciding set at three o’clock in the morning.

There was nerveless tennis from both players as Kokkinakis went back to his strategy of playing lights-out tennis. Meanwhile Murray played patient, defensive tennis and waited for his moment to strike as he looked to take advantage of the Australian’s fatigue.

The Brit dominated on return for most of the set and had four break point opportunities in the seventh game. Those were denied by a pumped up Kokkinakis who continued to serve immaculately and without pressure.

Eventually it would be Murray who would get his well deserved break to take a 6-5 lead and after five hours and 45 minutes of brutal tennis, Murray closed out the match with a backhand winner down the line in what was the longest match of his career. Murray is now through to the third round while Kokkinakis ponders of what could have been having hit 102 winners in the match.

 

Andy Murray v Roberto Bautista Agut [24] H2H & Match Fundamentals

Andy Murray v Roberto Bautista Agut [24] H2H: Tied at 3-3
Australian Open 2023 Melbourne, Australia
Hard (O) Prize Money: $227,925
Fourth on Margaret Court Arena (08:00 GMT) Discovery+ Add-on via Amazon Prime      Sign up for 30 day free trial of Prime Video and a 7 day free trial of Discovery+ Player

Murray will now face 24th seed Roberto Bautista Agut for a place in the second week on the same court and against the same opponent that he ‘retired’ from tennis a few years ago.

 

Tale of the Tape – Key Stats (Last 12 months)

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H2H: Andy Murray (WR 66) Roberto Bautista Agut (WR 25)
Tournament Previous Best Final (2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016) Quarter-Final (2019)
1st Serve % 60.4 66.2
Service Games Won % 80.7 82.7
Break Points Saved % 60 62.3
2nd Serve Return Points Won % 54.9 54.6
Break Points Converted % 39.2 39.7

Murray will need to raise his level on serve if he wants to have a chance of winning this match given how effective Bautista Agut is on his own serve.

 

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Playing styles and prediction

Bautista Agut has started the season in fine form as he usually does with statistically the first few months of the year being the Spaniard’s favourite. A run to the Adelaide final has given Bautista Agut confidence but only just survived his last round against talented American Brandon Holt and will look to improve as the tournament progresses.

Murray will need to have a high percentage of first serves and be as aggressive as possible on return if he wants to have a chance of winning this match. The question will be how much Murray has in the tank after playing 11 hours of tennis in his last two matches. If Murray’s movement and stamina is sharp then he could have a chance but if isn’t then Bautista Agut should prevail in another brutal contest.

Prediction: Bautista Agut in four sets.

 

 

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