Andy Murray survives another night of Wimbledon drama to edge past Oscar Otte and into the third round

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 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

What is it about Andy Murray and the roof? For the second successive appearance on Centre Court, its closure acted as a catalyst to turn a match back in his favour that looked to be slipping away.

On a court that has provided such success and such suffering, for most of the match against Oscar Otte it felt like it could go either way.

This was not in the mould of the Wimbledon titles won here nor, at the other end of the spectrum, the very public crumbling of his hip as during his last appearance in 2017.

And yet, it had most of the other Murray ingredients – the self-flagellation but in newer and often more exaggerated terms and a partisan crowd at times in rapture at others silenced as Otte played considerably better than his world ranking of 151 suggested.

Oscar Otte (REUTERS)
Oscar Otte (REUTERS)

In the end and for all his past ailments, Murray remembered how to win when it mattered most, the eventual scoreline 6-3 4-6 4-6 6-4 6-2.

Quite what lies in store now is anyone’s guess but Murray at least survives for another night of Centre Court drama on Friday night against No10 seed Denis Shapovalov.

“I enjoyed the end, the middle point not so much,” he said afterwards. “What an atmosphere to play in there at the end.”

The former world No1 certainly put his entourage, those in the stands and those watching at home through the wringer, although oddly the first indications were it would be relatively straightforward.

As against first-round opponent Nikoloz Basilashvili, he dominated the early exchanges. This time against Otte – a 27-year-old who had never made the main draw before let alone played on tennis’ most iconic court – he raced into a 6-3 3-1 lead.

But again the wheels fell off but this time in even more dramatic fashion, Murray losing the next two sets and looking incapable of finding a solution.

But the subsequent 15-minute delay to close the roof in response to the fading natural light again had the desired effect.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

In his first point back, a cracking passing shot left Otte sprawling on the floor. And from there Murray, who had been too passive for the preceding two sets, became the aggressor.

It brought with it three break points on the German’s serve, which he duly converted for a 4-2 lead. Of course, it wasn’t straightforward from there – Otte broke back before Murray found the resolve to level at two sets apiece.

At times, though, it proved a hard watch as Murray castigated himself in overdrive at points, slapping his thigh, somewhat bizarrely shouting out “belter” on repeat and even blaming himself for not having played certain shots enough in practice.

But it was clear it was as much a frustration about past glories and his inability to play in quite the same fluid manner he had in his pomp as anything else.

As it was, this didn’t quite need peak Murray in terms of technique and shot making - although there were glimpses of it particularly in the final set - but it did need his peak intensity, an attribute that was in abundance when it mattered.

And credit due to Otte too, who confessed he had been reduced to tears in watching the documentary about Murray’s painstaking return from hip surgery. It seemed apt, then, he should play a part in Murray’s rebirth of sorts.

The threat of defeat aside, there was another scare when the two-time Wimbledon champion fell awkwardly on the slippery surface which has become such a talking point of the opening three days, screaming out in pain and holding his groin, which has been the bigger issue than his metal hip in the build-up to Wimbledon.

He fell late on too, remarking the court was “dangerous” but they were but momentary blips on another night in Murray’s Centre Court annals. Another night of drama surely awaits in 48 hours.

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