Andy Murray makes dramatic return to majors in five-set US Open win

Former champion Andy Murray produced an astonishing fightback to outlast Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka 4-6, 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/4), 6-4 in his long-awaited return to Grand Slam singles action in the US Open first round.

The 33-year-old Briton, contesting a singles match at a major for the first since the 2019 Australian Open, appeared to be heading for an early exit as a fearless Nishioka outplayed him for two sets on a virtually empty Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Yet as he has so often done in his career, Murray simply refused to accept defeat.

Desperately trying to spark himself into life, Murray recovered from a break down in the third set and saved a match point late in the fourth.

At the start of the fifth set he required treatment on his battered toes and then slipped a break behind again before roaring back to finally crush 49th-ranked Nishioka’s spirit and claim victory in four hours and 38 minutes.

It was Murray’s 10th win from two sets down and showed that despite undergoing two hip surgeries, he remains one of the sport’s great warriors.

“I’m tired, my toes are the worst part, my big toes are pretty beat up,” Murray, whose emotional defeat in five sets against Roberto Bautista Agut in Melbourne in 2019 looked like ending his career, said on court.

“At the beginning I was apprehensive about playing a long match because I’ve not played one for a while and I was sort of pacing myself.

Murray will have to recover quickly as his next opponent will be Canadian 15th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, who beat Brazil’s Thiago Monteiro 6-3, 6-7 (9/7), 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (8/6).

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He said his first job was to try to find an ice bath.

“They have one in the locker room but that’s supposed to be for an emergency. This is an emergency,” Murray said.

Murray, who claimed the first of his three Grand Slam titles in New York in 2012, looked off the pace as left-hander Nishioka dominated from the baseline to take the first set.

He then fell away badly and was a point away from going down 0-5 in the second set before clawing his way back.

Nishioka held firm though to claim it and was 3-1 ahead in the third before Murray’s comeback began.

Second seed Dominic Thiem had a quick passage to the second round, with unseeded Spanish player Jaume Munar retiring after the second set, down 7-6 (8/6), 6-3.

Spanish eighth seed Roberto Bautista Agut and Russian 10th seed Andrey Rublev also advanced, with wins over Tennys Sandgren and Jeremy Chardy respectively.

Serena on the road towards title 24

A tennis player grimaces as she hits a fierce forehand return at the US Open.

A tennis player grimaces as she hits a fierce forehand return at the US Open.

Serena Williams overcomes a slow start to win her opening round match in straight sets against Kristie Ahn.(AP: Seth Wenig)

Serena Williams took her first step toward a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title, defeating Kristie Ahn 7-5, 6-3 in the first round of the US Open.

Williams got off to a slow start, showing signs of nervousness early in the first set.

However she kicked her game into high gear in the second, firing off 13 aces and 28 winners during the match, and harnessing her powerful return to keep her opponent on the run.

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A final serve forced Ahn into error, as Williams claimed a record 102nd US Open match victory and scored her first straight-sets win since the sport was put on a coronavirus hiatus.

“I was really happy with how I just fought for every point,” Williams said in an on-court interview after the match.

She said she had to regain her focus and “just be Serena and close it out”.

In typical fashion, Williams harnessed her powerful serve to her advantage, winning 85 per cent of her first-serve points, with the fastest reaching 199.5 kilometres per hour.

Williams, who reached the final of the US Open in her last two campaigns, is gunning for her first Grand Slam title since 2017 to equal Margaret Court’s record in a depleted field in which six of the top 10 players are not competing this year.

She next faces Margarita Gasparyan of Russia in the second round.

Other winners included ninth seed Johanna Konta, who beat fellow Briton Heather Watson 7-6 (9/7), 6-1, American second seed Sofia Kenin, who dismissed Yanina Wickmayer 6-2, 6-2 and seventh-seeded Madison Keys, who beat Timea Babos 6-1, 6-1.

Big day for Aussies at Flushing Meadows

An Australian tennis player plays a two-handed cross-court backhand at the US Open.

An Australian tennis player plays a two-handed cross-court backhand at the US Open.

Alex de Minaur made short work of his first-round match at the US Open against Slovakia’s Andrej Martin.(AP: Frank Franklin II)

There was a strong showing from the Australian contingent at the US Open, with three winners on the day.

Alex de Minaur was up and running, safely into the second round following a straight-sets win over Slovakian Andrej Martin.

The Australian was too classy in all departments for Martin, and chiefly too fast around the court as he sped to a 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 victory in just over two hours.

Contesting his first grand-slam match since reaching the fourth round in New York last year, de Minaur displayed no signs of competitive rust.

He broke Martin’s serve seven times, often with clean return winners using his sizzling speed of foot to change the point of direction, and was broken only twice.

Australia’s 21st seed next faces Richard Gasquet on Friday after the veteran Frenchman eliminated 41-year-old Croatian Ivo Karlovic 7-6 (7/0), 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 in his opener.

Fellow Australian Chris O’Connell also advanced to the second round after a 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4 win over Serbian Laslo Djere on his Flushing Meadows debut.

O’Connell will play either Russia’s third seed and 2019 runner-up Daniil Medvedev or Argentine Federico Delbonis on Friday for a place in the third round for the first time at a major.

The news got better when John Millman produced a great performance to defeat 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.

James Duckworth had a chance of becoming the fourth Australian through, but he lost in four sets to Italy’s Salvatore Caruso 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-2.

Wires/ABC