Andy Murray edges past Denis Shapovalov in Dubai for second win of 2024

Andy Murray dug deep to secure a second win of 2024 with a 4-6 7-6 (5) 6-3 victory over Denis Shapovalov in the first round of the Dubai Open.

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 when Shapovalov, a former top-10 player, claimed the opening set.

Murray had struggled to breach the serve of his 24-year-old opponent, but produced a trademark gutsy display to edge a second-set tie-breaker and kept his composure to break twice in the decider to secure a much-needed win after two hours and 33 minutes.

The most recent meeting between the duo went to Murray, 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.

Buoyed by his eagle-eyes, Murray followed this 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 trademark battling skills to keep the second set on serve at 4-4 and a tie-breaker was ultimately required.

Several mini-breaks followed, but it was Murray who made sure the match went the distance after he edged a marathon 75-minute set with an excellent trade-off with Shapovalov after he came into the net.

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 was able to consolidate with a succession of quick holds to move within sight of a precious victory.

Murray had to work hard to hold in the eighth game of the decider and it broke Shapovalov’s resistance with the Canadian broken again to hand the Briton a confidence-boosting 500th hard-court win of his career.