Murray saves five match points 6-0, 3-6, 7-6 to reach 5th Doha final
Andy Murray the former world #1 from England, continues to defy the odds and confound his opponents. After undergoing a second and more complicated hip-resurfacing procedure in 2019, the thirty-five year continues to reascend the rankings.
The 3-time grand slam champion currently ranked #70, wowed the crowds down under with two consecutive five-set victories, the last against native Australian, Thanasi Kokkinakis. His ability to stay engaged and competitive both mentally and physically has also been on display in Qatar.
Having received a main draw wildcard, he saved three match points to overcome Italian Lorenzo Sonego 7-4 in the third set breaker then outlasted former world #2 Sascha Zverev in three tight sets.
Despite losing the opening set in his quarterfinal against French qualifier Alexandre Muller, Murray was off the court in two hours with the loss of just three games in the final two sets. The two-time Doha champion (2008, 2009) was seeking his first tour final since 2019 in Antwerp.
(Hussein Sayed/AP) (AP)
His opponent in the semis provided additional challenges. Jiri Lehecka reached the semis in Rotterdam in 2022 and was a finalist in Milan at the NextGen ATP Finals. He is currently ranked #52 having reached a career high of 37 earlier this month.
The twenty-one year old phenom from the Czech Republic started the season with a flourish having reached the quarters at the Australian Open where he dispatched the 11th seed Cam Norrie and the 6th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime before losing in three to the 3rd seed, Stefanos Tsitsipas.
This week in Doha he took out the talented Finn, Emil Ruusuvouri in straights and in the quarters, world #5 and top seed Andrey Rublev in three for his first top-five win. Still in search of his first tour final, this was his first tour level meeting with Murray.
Lehecka served first and despite striking his first ace, faced three deuce and three break points, and dumped serve following his fifth forehand error. Murray donated his first double fault and faced tripled break point yet managed to hold following four consecutive errors from Lehecka.
Despite a slew of volley errors, the NextGen superstar continued his forays to the net. Lehecka, perhaps trying to avoid lengthy baseline rallies with his accomplished opponent, paid the price dumping three volleys and serve for 0-3. Murray mixing offense with stellar defense, consolidated the break for 4-0 with an ace up the tee.
Lehecka appeared distracted and tactically unsure as he gifted Murray five more errors and a third break of serve. Murray closed out the set at love in thirty-two minutes with two consecutive forehand winners and an unreturnable serve.
Lehecka left the court following the conclusion of the opening set and it clearly paid off as he held at love to open the second. Murray hit his second ace, but two consecutive second serves cost him as Lehecka pummeled his groundstrokes to earn the break.
Lehecka now playing with more clarity and conviction, consolidated the break at love with aces on the last two points. Murray opened the fourth with a well-placed serve and inside-out forehand winner and finally got on the board with his third ace and a mishit forehand from his opponent.
Lehecka held easily to 15 for 4-1 while Murray with his fourth ace, returned the favor for 2-4. Lehecka missed 6/10 first serves and faced two deuce and two break points but held with a crisp crosscourt backhand volley and a netted forehand from Murray.
Murray serving to stay in the set, opened with a terrific crosscourt forehand and an ace out wide and held easily to 15 for 3-5. Lehecka missed 4/6 first serves but secured the set following a winning forehand approach and a missed return from Murray.
The 46-time tour titlist served first in the decider and held to 30 while Lehecka serving with new balls, struck two consecutive aces and a blistering backhand down the line to level. Murray missed 4/8 first serves and faced deuce and break point and dropped serve following two consecutive errors.
Lehecka opened the fourth with his sixth ace and despite three additional winners off the forehand, gifted six unforced errors including a double fault to give back the break. Murray faced 0-40 and dumped serve when following two consecutive errors and a spectacular crosscourt backhand pass from his opponent.
Following three consecutive breaks of serve, Lehecka held easily to 15 with four winners including his seventh ace while Murray held to 15 for 3-4 with his 6th ace on game point. Lehecka doubled down on his net approaches despite a losing percentage in the opening set and was most impressive as he turned a losing strategy into a winning one. He opened the 8th game with a fantastic forehand volley and held to 15 for 5-3, just four points from his first final.
Sir Murray was reaching rather than moving up for balls. The 2-time Olympic gold medalist missed 6/10 first serves and faced two deuce and two match points yet held courtesy of four unforced errors from his opponent.
Lehecka with the match on his racquet, opened with two consecutive volley winners and reached triple match point but could not cross the finish line. Murray dug in as champions do, daring his opponent to go for too much.
Lehecka squandered a 40-0 lead with four unforced errors and dropped serve. Murray emboldened by his doggedness when it mattered most, gifted his second double fault but assumed the lead 6-5 with three extraordinary backhand winners.
Lehecka serving to stay in the match and force the breaker, donated his second double fault but leveled at six apiece with three consecutive winners and a monster serve up the tee.
Murray served first in the breaker and soon led 3-1 but Lehecka leveled at 4-4 with a massive forehand down the line and colossal serve down the middle. Murray won the next point with a huge serve up the tee but with an ace, Lehecka leveled.
Murray reached match point at 6-5 when Lehecka netted a makeable forehand but the Brit succumbed to a stellar drop shot and forehand pass. Murray had another serve at 6-6 after changing ends and reached match point with an ace up the tee and secured victory when Lehecka missed wide with a forehand volley.
It was a mesmerizing, miraculous match. Andy Murray saved five match points to reach his first final in over three years. It was a high-quality, high-octane battle with both making comebacks and seizing the momentum.
Murray finished with 7 aces to 3 doubles and won 69% of first and 51% of second serve points. He saved 5/8 break points and converted 5/9. Although Lehecka struck twenty-seven more winners than Murray, he won three less points (91/94). While he will bemoan the five match points he failed to convert, he will eventually glean wisdom from the loss and utilize it throughout the course of the season.
In the championship match, Murray will face former world #1 and 2021 US Open champion Daniil Medvedev. While he trails the Russian 0-2 in the head to head, he’ll surely focus on his recovery and experience having won 46/70 titles.