Andy Murray continues comeback by reaching China Open quarter-finals
Three-time grand slam champion outlasts Cameron Norrie to win back-to-back ATP Tour singles matches for the first time in more than a year
Former world No 1 Andy Murray won successive ATP Tour matches for the first time in more than a year after beating fellow Briton Cameron Norrie to reach the China Open quarter-finals on Wednesday.
Murray, who underwent career-saving hip resurfacing surgery in January, outlasted Norrie 7-6, 6-7, 6-1 over nearly three gruelling hours and will play top seed Dominic Thiem or Chinese wildcard Zhang Zhizhen next.
The 32-year-old Murray, now ranked 503, is stepping up his comeback - and was at his vintage fighting best here.
He defeated US Open semi-finalist Matteo Berrettini on Tuesday in hot and hazy Beijing for his biggest scalp since his return to singles tennis in mid-August.
The three-time grand slam winner says he no longer has pain in his hip and it is a matter now of building up fitness so he can play several matches in a row at tournaments.
Murray showed several flashes of irritation as the first set against 69th-ranked Norrie went to the tie break, chuntering away in the direction of his coaching team courtside.
But he regained his composure and captured the set thanks to an untimely double fault by his compatriot.
The 24-year-old Norrie broke Murray's serve in the sixth game of the second set and Murray was struggling, bending over between points with his hands on his knees to catch his breath.
He shook his head as he slumped red-faced in his seat at 5-2 down and looked all in. He displayed the battling qualities which took him to No 1 in 2016 to somehow surge back, only to lose the second set on the tie break.
But he somehow wrestled back the initiative in the decider, breaking Norrie's first service game on the way to a trademark gritty victory.
"I'm tired, I just had a sleep before coming. I mean, I'm really tired," he said.
To save his creaking body from more punishment, Murray said that he switched tactics in the deciding third set.
"I decided if I want to win I have to go and take risks and come to the net, try and finish the points quicker, which I did," he said.
Russian fourth seed Karen Khachanov also booked his place in the quarter-finals by edging Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 7-6, 7-6.
At the Japan Open in Tokyo, world No 1 Novak Djokovic was pushed closer than expected but ultimately came through comfortably against local hope Go Soeda.
Top seed Djokovic, making his debut at the tournament, claimed a break in each set to progress to the quarter-finals 6-3, 7-5. The 32-year-old Serb will face fifth seed Lucas Pouille for a place in the semi-finals after the Frenchman crushed another Japanese player, Yoshihito Nishioka 6-1, 6-2.
"Obviously, I was pleased to get that done in two [sets]," Djokovic said. "We must give credit to Go Soeda, who played a really good match, fought hard, made me work for my win today.
"For my side, I am really pleased. Probably I played even on a higher level than the first round. So the game is going to the right direction for sure. I played now three days in a row. Everything is fine."
Belgian third seed David Goffin overcame the challenge of in-form Pablo Carreno-Busta to reach the last-16 with a 6-1, 6-7, 6-0 win. Goffin will face Canadian Denis Shapovalov for a place in the quarter-finals.
Meanwhile, Alex De Minaur appeared to struggle from the quick turnaround from his successful Zhuhai Open campaign by slumping to a shock 6-3, 6-7, 7-6 loss to world No 99 Lloyd George Harris.
Updated: October 2, 2019 03:01 PM