ATP

Andy Murray suggests he is in ‘last few months’ of career after Dubai win

By Sports Desk February 26, 2024

Andy Murray hinted he was heading into the “last few months” of his tennis career after battling from a set down to beat Denis Shapovalov in Dubai to secure his second win of 2024.

The three-time grand slam champion has been forced to fend off retirement talk following a string of first-round defeats and looked set for another early exit when Shapovalov, a former top 10 player, took the opening set.

Murray had struggled to breach the serve of his 24-year-old Canadian opponent, but produced a trademark gutsy display to edge a second-set tie-breaker before keeping his composure to break twice in the decider and secure a 4-6 7-6 (5) 6-3 win after two hours and 33 minutes.

Victory saw Murray become only the fifth man in the Open Era to claim 500 tour-level wins on a hard court and he will face either fifth seed Ugo Humbert or wild card Gael Monfils in the second round.

However, rather than his match-up against one of the two Frenchman, it was the 36-year-old Scot’s longer-term future which was again a hot topic following his win, with Murray admitting he probably does not have “too long left” in the sport.

“People read a lot into what I say on the court sometimes and it’s not always rational,” Murray said.

“I obviously still love competing and still love the game, but it gets harder and harder the older you get to compete with the young guys and keep your body fit and fresh.

“Not easy, I probably don’t have too long left, but I’ll do as best as I can these last few months.”

Murray won his most recent meeting against Shapovalov, but that was in 2022 and he entered this match in torrid form with only one win this year.

Shapovalov signalled his intent with three aces in his opening service game before the duo traded a number of early holds.

The first break point opportunity did not occur until the ninth game and, while Murray saved it at 15-40 down, Shapovalov outlasted the Scot in a lengthy rally on the next point to move 5-4 up.

Murray let his frustration show after his wayward backhand gifted Shapovalov the initiative and chucked his racket at the court before the Canadian closed out the opener with two more aces.

Former world number one Murray produced a strong response at the start of the second set and remarkably produced three successful challenges on his serve.

Murray followed that up with a first break point opportunity and, while it came and went, the 36-year-old did break Shapovalov at the next time of asking to move 3-1 up.

Shapovalov had sent down two double-faults to aid Murray’s cause, but hit back immediately with a break of his own before he consolidated it after a 10-minute service game which included a 137mph ace.

Murray had to display his battling skills to keep the second set on serve at 4-4 and a tie-breaker was ultimately required, which the Scot edged to win a marathon 75-minute set.

Shapovalov’s serve had let him down towards the end of the second set and his struggles continued with two double-faults to begin the third.

It handed Murray the ascendancy and he took full advantage to claim a confidence-boosting 500th hard-court win of his career.

Murray said: “It’s not bad. Obviously hard court has been a great surface for me over the years and 500 is a lot of matches so I’m very proud of that.

“There are not many players that have done that, so great to get to 500 before I’m done.”

An emotional-sounding Murray finished his on-court interview by trying to point out his father in the crowd, saying: “My dad’s come to support me this week which means a lot.”

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