Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 5 August 2020

UAE great sporting moments - No 16: Andy Murray's epic tie-break at Dubai Tennis Championships

World No 1 saved seven match points against Philipp Kohlschreiber in the 2017 quarter-finals

Andy Murray, left, Philipp Kohlschreiber greet each other at the net after the 2017 Dubai Tennis Championships quarter-finals. AP Photo
Andy Murray, left, Philipp Kohlschreiber greet each other at the net after the 2017 Dubai Tennis Championships quarter-finals. AP Photo
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Each day over three weeks, The National counts down the most memorable moments in UAE sports history.

Andy Murray has forged a reputation for winning tennis matches the hard way.

The Scot's first Grand Slam title was a case in point: leading Novak Djokovic by two sets in the 2012 US Open final, Murray proceeded to lose the next two before somehow regrouping to clinch the fifth and the trophy.

Four-and-a-half years later, Murray was at it again, and while the stakes may have been lower, the drama was just as palpable.

It was the quarter-finals of the 2017 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Murray, then the world No 1, was expected to deliver a routine win against the experienced German Philipp Kohlschreiber, whom he had beaten four times in a row.

Murray may have won, but routine it was not.

After losing the first set in a tie-break, the second set needed to be decided the same way. What unfolded would be the most remarkable spell of competitive tennis ever seen at the tournament.

Both players produced moments of brilliance and bewildering misses as Murray saved seven match points, including the first with an outrageous drop shot when trailing 8-9.

“That was probably the worst decision I made in the whole match," Murray said. "Look, it paid off, but if I was coaching someone, I certainly wouldn't tell them to try a shot like that.”

More than half an hour of unbearable tension later, Murray finally converted his eighth set point when Kohlschreiber sent a forehand long. At 20-18, it equalled the record for longest tie-break. The entire set lasted an incredible 84 minutes.

After squandering so many chances to win the match, the wind went out of Kohlschreiber's sails and Murray cruised through the deciding set 6-1.

“It's obviously a special match to win because of how it went,” Murray said. “I'll probably never play another tie-break like that again. I have been playing on the tour for 11, 12 years now, and nothing's been close to that."

The British No 1 was untroubled for the rest of the tournament, beating Lucas Pouille in the semi-finals and Fernando Verdasco in the final, both in straight sets. Following his finest season in 2016, which comprised nine titles, Dubai would be Murray's only trophy in 2017 as the hip injury that would threaten his career began to take hold.

“Of course losing is always disappointing, but I'm not sad,” Kohlschreiber said. “I think I played great tennis, one of my best matches. You can be thinking about one or two shots, but it was just a great match. It’s well-deserved, he’s a great fighter, he never gives up."

No, he doesn't.

Updated: July 5, 2020 01:43 PM

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