x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Dent will 'die fighting' against Murray

The American gets through a marathon five-set thriller to reach the third round and says he will rely on toughness and grit against the Scot.

Taylor Dent hints a backhand during his second round match against Ivan Navarro which lasted more than four hours.
Taylor Dent hints a backhand during his second round match against Ivan Navarro which lasted more than four hours.

NEW YORK // Taylor Dent, playing his first US Open since 2005 due to a back injury, made a stunning rally to win a marathon five-set thriller and put himself in the way of Andy Murray's path to the final. The 28-year-old American son of retired Australian standout Phil Dent outlasted Spain's Ivan Navarro 6-4, 5-7, 6-7, 7-5, 7-6 after four hours and 12 minutes to reach a third-round match with the British second seed.

"It was amazing," Dent said. "I was up a set. I had chances to win both the second and third sets. I just hung in there and fought. It wasn't pretty. Grit got it done for me." Dent, a 196th-ranked wild card entrant, will face Murray today at Arthur Ashe Stadium. "I'm going to die fighting for every point," Dent said after winning the final set 11-9. "I don't know how I'm going to fare against Murray. My execution level is not where I want it to be. I'm going to make up for it with pure grit and toughness."

After squandering three match points in the last tie-breaker, Dent saved a match point, then fired his 20th ace and finally ended the endurance test with a backhand service return. "I don't know how it happened but it happened," Dent said. Dent underwent spinal fusion operations in 2006 and 2007 and was told he would never play elite-level tennis again, but he healed better than expected and returned last year on a limited basis.

Just 19 months ago, Dent was asking himself if a comeback was worthwhile after seeing how poorly he played. "That was probably the toughest moment. I saw how much I lost," he said. "After two minutes of hitting, that's when I had the tough talk with myself. I had lost everything. I was getting winded after 30 seconds on the court. I told myself, 'A select few get this opportunity and you'd be an idiot to push it back'."

Dent, whose mother Betty-Ann was a 1977 US Open doubles finalist, was firing serves above 140mph late in the match, one of them so hard it snapped the centre tape on the net and briefly halted the match. "The back is the least of my worries right now. I treat it right and it doesn't hurt me," Dent said. This is only the second time Dent has won consecutive matches in his comeback and he did so despite Navarro hitting 80 per cent of his first serves. "This is a little bit uncharted territory," Dent added. "I'm on cloud nine."

Navarro had Dent on the ropes several times in the last two sets, but a vocal Grandstand crowd inspired Dent to continue and after the match he thanked his supporters. "I had to thank these people for staying out here, for being my backbone. I had to show my appreciation," Dent said. "The crowd never stopped being my third leg. When I finally started to turn it around, the emotions just boiled over. It's unbelievable."

His home support at the Ashe Stadium should be even louder. Murray won both prior meetings with Dent in 2005, but the Scotsman was a teen newcomer then and Dent is in good form. "Murray is going to put a lot of returns down at my feet on my first serve. That's going to lead to passing shots for him," Dent said. "What I remember last time is he passed really well and I couldn't really read the backhand. It's going to come down to execution and grit."

* AFP