Three years on from what was meant to be the curtain call for his career, Andy Murray is still winning matches at the Australian Open.
Today in Melbourne, Murray beat 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-1, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4 in the kind of belligerent five-set grind that has long been his calling card.
With a winnable second-round match against qualifier Taro Daniel up next, the 34-year-old former world No1 will believe he can go further. The question is whether his battered body agrees.
Although it is almost five years since Murray reached the second week of a Grand Slam, those close to him say he still harbours hopes of mounting a credible challenge for another major title, perhaps even at Wimbledon, before contemplating retirement.
His form in the last six months has given credence to that faith, with some notable wins over top-10 opponents Hubert Hurkacz and Jannik Sinner and, earlier this month in Sydney, a run to his first top-level final since 2019.
Murray’s trouble, however, has been following up some of those more demanding recent victories. He lost at the first attempt after beating both Hurkacz and Sinner, and until Sydney had not won more than two matches in a row at an ATP event since February.
Three of his last four matches at Grand Slams have now gone the distance. If he is going to prove the doubters wrong again, it looks like Murray will have to do it the hard way.
Raducanu revels in Grand Slam return
Some thrive on the big stage, others shrink. All the evidence points to Emma Raducanu being in the latter camp.
The US Open champion has struggled to live up to her billing as the next big thing in women’s tennis since her landmark triumph at Flushing Meadows last year, winning just two of her six matches.
But the British 19-year-old rocked up to the Australian Open for a daunting first-round match with former Grand Slam champion Sloane Stephens and served the American a 17-minute bagel in the first set.
Stephens was, admittedly, rusty herself, having not played for two months, during which time she wed former Premier League footballer Jozy Altidore, and fought back to force a decider. Again, Raducanu found the edge when it mattered, winning 6-0, 2-6, 6-1.
In the four months since the US Open, Raducanu has been lazily accused of taking her eye off tennis by signing a string of sponsorship deals with Dior, British Airways and Tiffany and Co.
Nike even played on the criticism in their latest marketing campaign with her, in which the teenager from Bromley ignores a series of jibes projected behind her by clubbing balls back with cool ferocity. Today’s performance, even more than the ad, was the perfect riposte to those taunts.
Raducanu faces Montenegrin Danka Kovinic next and could meet her hero Simona Halep in round three. The Briton’s mixed form makes that far from certain, but on this stage it would be very foolish to bet against her.
Evans and Watson quietly impress
On another day Dan Evans’ straight-sets defeat of former world top-10 player David Goffin might have garnered more attention.
As it was he was overshadowed by more famous compatriots but the 31-year-old, who reached the semi-finals in Sydney and was an Australian Open quarter-finalist in 2017, should not fear Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech in the second round.
Heather Watson declared herself in love with tennis again after she ended a miserable seven-match losing streak dating back to last summer with a three-set win over Egyptian Mayar Sherif.
Watson faces a tricky second-round meeting with Slovenian 29th seed Tamara Zidansek next.
Qualifier Harriet Dart could not join the oher Brits in round two. She took an early lead against Iga Swiatek found herself outclassed by the 2020 French Open champion.
It was a similar tale for Liam Broady, who came through qualifying only to meet high-calibre opposition in Nick Kyrgios, who despatched him in straight sets with a crowd-pleasing, trick laden performance.