Alex de Minaur has pulled off an extraordinary comeback triumph to continue his stranglehold over one of the world’s great players Andy Murray at the China Open.
In a remarkable see-saw first-round contest, the Australian No.1 saved three match points on Thursday night en route to a fifth consecutive victory over the three-time grand slam winner.
But it doesn’t get any easier for him at the prestigious Beijing indoor tournament. Next up, US Open finalist and world No.3 Daniil Medvedev after the Russian steamrolled American Tommy Paul 6-2 6-1 in his first-round match on Friday.
De Minaur lost to Medvedev in the last-16 at Flushing Meadows earlier this month but did have success in August at the Canadian Open.
The never-say-die Sydneysider drove Murray to distraction, the British veteran getting so frustrated with his own form and the Aussie’s dogged resilience that he even got a code violation for, rather uncharacteristically, hurling his racquet down three times in the same game when losing the plot in the second set.
The Scot’s racquet-chucking became an irritable theme – he did it again a couple of times in the final set too – before finally succumbing 6-3 5-7 7-6 (8-6) to de Minaur, who has now joined the most elite of company in becoming only the fourth man to beat Murray five times in a row.
The others who’ve achieved that feat? Only Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Unlike de Minaur, though, that matchless trio don’t hold a 100 per cent win record over Murray.
“I really don’t know,” shrugged a weary but elated world No.12 de Minaur, when asked afterwards how on earth he had managed to escape with one of his most unlikely victories in two hours 50 minutes.
“It wasn’t pretty but I’m very happy I was able to win.
“I think we probably both didn’t bring our best level today so it’s an absolutely scrap fest, but I’m happy I was able to get my first win, probably in a very, very long time, where I’ve saved some match points.
“More than anything, it’s probably down to my attitude. I kind of kept my head screwed on and just told myself to keep trying, keep trying and keep backing myself.
“And eventually I was going to find my level, and I’m very happy I was able to turn that around.”
De Minaur is hunting for some big points to help his push to reach the end-of-season ATP Finals as he’s currently lying 11th in the ‘Race to Turin’, still in with a good chance of making the eight-man field if he can enjoy a profitable run-in.