Andy Murray doesn’t know when he’s beaten. In the longest match of his career and his latest ever finish gone four in the Melbourne morning, he edged out Thanasi Kokkinakis in compelling fashion.
This time he went two sets behind. The last six times he had faced such a predicament, he had lost. But at 35 and nine years older than his opponent, he edged out the pair’s marathon war of attrition 4-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-3, 7-5.
That the match was able to play this late was frankly ludicrous, Murray even remonstrating with the umpire that it was “disrespectful” of the tournament to still be playing at 3am.
And still that was some time before the match reached its conclusion at 4.05am after five hours and 45 minutes.
One couldn’t help but feel for Kokkanakis, who produced arguably the performance of his career to suggest he may yet be a top-10 player in a career unfulfilled, beset as he has been by one injury after another.
Those that stayed late enough in their seats at Margaret Court Arena were raucous to the the final point, bar Murray’s coach Ivan Lendl, who looked remarkably non-plussed amid the rollercoaster nature of the match.
For so much of the contest from the second set onwards, it was about who blinked first. When it finally came to the crunch, it looked like Kokkanakis in game seven of the final set when facing four break points. As had so often been the case, he dug himself out of a hole with his blistering serve.
By that point, Murray was hobbling in between points, hopefully in exhaustion rather than any issue with his metal hip after more than 10 hours of competitive tennis in just two rounds.
More break points came again on the Kokkinakis serve in game 11 and this time Murray finally converted just his fifth of 22 break points before serving out for the win.
Throughout the match, Murray was at his scurrying best, showing the sort of defensive capabilities that had taken him to world No1 in the pre-surgery part of his illustrious career.
If there was one point that best typified it, it came in the third set where he produced four straight lobs and survived three smashes to help him break his opponent and keep alive the match when it looked to be edging away from him.
Kokkinakis was in the ascendancy early on, getting the break in the first set, his 17 winners to Murray’s eight telling the story of the set.
The Australian again got the break in the second and had three set points to serve it out only for Murray to break. It was pivotal, coming moments after the Scot had turned to his box and say, “I haven’t got it in me”.
But any suggestions it might shift the tide of the match proved unwarranted as Kokkinakis got the mini break when Murray hit the first point of the ensuing tiebreak into the net. An ace sealed a two-set lead.
Murray looked on his way home when he found himself trailing 2-0 in set three but the next game proved crucial when Kokkinakis was given a time violation for taking too long on his serve. What he saw as an injustice seemed to derail him after admonishing the umpire.
It was in that game that Murray defended those three overhead smashes, cupping his ear for applause from a partisan crowd as Kokkinakis smashed his racket in frustration, leading to a code violation.
Australian Open 2023 - In pictures
But the match again flipped when Kokkinakis broke again in game nine only for Murray to level again and prolong an already late night.
Where Kokkinakis had won the previous won 7-4, this was a more nervy one as Murray was marginally the better player throughout.
By that point, Murray was in the ascendancy but Kokkinakis refused to give in even when facing four break points in that seventh game of the finale.
Shortly before the Aussie did eventually crack, Murray had shouted out ‘C’mon Andy, let’s go’ to himself, which seemed to give him the final shot to get him over the line.
In winning, it was the second latest fininsh in Australian Open history, not quite beating the time of 4.34am when Leyton Hewitt beat Marcos Baghdatis.