Friday, February 23, 2024

Andy Murray reaches Qatar Open final in truly stunning scenes

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Former world number one Andy Murray was at a loss to explain how he saved five match points Saturday to overcome Czech challenger Jiri Lehecka and reach the Qatar Open final.

The 35-year-old launched into a roar of delight after the 6-0, 3-6, 7-6 (8/6) triumph that took him into his first ATP tour final for eight months.

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Murray now has to take on Russian world number eight Daniil Medvedev who beat Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 7-6 (9/7) in the second semi-final.

“That was one of the most amazing turnarounds of my career,” said Murray, a two-time winner in Qatar.

“I don’t know how I managed to turn that match around.” Murray saved two match points on his own serve and three as his 21-year-old opponent tried to complete victory with his own big serve.

The British veteran, who had a hip replacement in 2019, has now come back from eight match points in four matches at the Doha tournament.

He has fought two tie-breaks and been taken to three sets in every match this week.

“I have never experienced this in my whole career,” he said. After he took the first set without losing a game in just 32 minutes, Murray had believed this would be an easier encounter — “and then it turned into something completely different”.

Murray had the best of a nervy start by both players. Considered one of the hottest prospects on the tour, Lehecka, who beat top seed Andrey Rublev in the quarter-final, served first, went 15-40 down, had two advantage points and then let Murray take over.

The Czech rediscovered his big serve and powerful returns for the second set when he broke Murray’s serve in straight games.

Murray reclaimed two match points on his serve in the deciding set and Lehecka had three more when serving at 5-4. Murray took the game and held his nerve in the tie break.

“This week could have ended very differently,” admitted the former two-time Wimbledon champion.

“But the way that I have played in the really important moments, the critical moments, has shown that there is a confidence and a belief in my game that has been missing for a while.”

Murray last reached an ATP final in Stuttgart last June. He has not won a tournament since Antwerp in 2019 and has lost to Medevedev in straight sets in each of their two meetings.

Medevedev said Murray’s performance in Doha has been “unbelievable”. “I will have to be at my best from the first to the last point,” said the Russian.

“He is a legend,” Medvedev added. “He is playing better and better, not only here but in general. He is fighting, it is amazing to see.”

Television presenter Jaiden Michael summed up the insane feat with one tweet: “What the actual f**k Sir Andy Murray.”

The Russian has now beaten Auger-Aliassime in all six matches they have played, including in the quarter-finals in Rotterdam last week where Medvedev took the title.

Auger-Aliassime managed three set points to take the second set and stay in the match but made errors in the tie break.

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