Home Play by Mail Andy Murray advances to first ATP Tour-level final since 2019 at Sydney Classic

Andy Murray advances to first ATP Tour-level final since 2019 at Sydney Classic

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Andy Murray had to be patient but he’s back in an ATP Tour-level final for the first time since October 2019 after beating Reilly Opelka in Sydney – and it could be a fellow Brit standing in his way.

Murray had some freshness after seeing his quarter-final end prematurely, with David Goffin having to retire injured, after losing the first set 6-2.

And in what was his first ATP Tour-level semi-final in 822 days, Murray showed class in his comeback match against one of the Tour’s tallest servers at 6ft 11in Opelka to win it. 6-7, 6-4, 6-4.

Yelled at by many raucous Scots inside the Ken Rosewall Arena, the former world No. 1, who has reached just his second final since injuries began to take their toll in 2017, showed that he remained a force on the ATP Tour despite his physical ailments and it was another stunning display that set him up for the Australian Open.

Victory in the final would also see Murray re-enter the top 100.

Andy Murray reached his first ATP Tour-level final since October 2019 after his last victory

It was an atrocious watch as an emotional Murray hit it at the Sydney Classic

It was an atrocious watch as an emotional Murray hit it at the Sydney Classic

He ran into a big 6ft 11 serve from Reilly Opelka but Murray showed his class was coming back

He ran into a big 6ft 11 serve from Reilly Opelka but Murray showed his class was coming back

Murray appeared to explore Opelka’s balls on the fly in an opening set that looked destined to be settled via a tiebreak from the moment it started.

The Scot did well to keep the ball in play but quickly lost his grip in the tiebreaker when he fell to an early 3-0 deficit.

A late rally put some doubt in Opelka’s mind but the American, who is aiming for a return to the top 20 in the world this month, held on to take the opener 7-6.

“I love the competition,” Murray said.

“You want to finish games quickly. I obviously lost a tight first set and it’s not easy to come back against someone who plays that style of game, but I kept fighting.

Using a blocking tactic, Murray was able to neutralize big serves more often than not

Using a blocking tactic, Murray was able to neutralize big serves more often than not

Opelka dug in and won the first set as they punished Murray's decision-making in a tiebreaker

Opelka dug in and won the first set as they punished Murray’s decision-making in a tiebreaker

ANDY MURRAY’S JOURNEY TO THE FINAL

L32: D. Victor Durasovic (6-3, 6-1)

L16: D. Nikolaz Basilashvili (6-7, 7-6, 6-3)

QF: D. David Goffin (6-2, retired)

SF: D. Reilly Opelka (6-7, 6-4, 6-4)

Murray spoke throughout this one while Opelka, who can be quite outspoken, was somewhat mute on the other side of the net.

An early break in the second set looked – and later proved – decisive for Murray and he quickly picked up the pace of his service games to score points, not allowing Opelka to settle in and find its rhythm.

At one set apiece, it was a straight shootout for first place in Saturday’s final and it turned out to be almost as close as the opener.

The pendulum of momentum seemed to be swinging towards Murray at 3-3 with Opelka serving.

Murray thought he had figured out Opelka’s serve at this point and with two break points at 15-40 he sensed an opportunity to take control.

A 141mph serve was quickly pulled in its direction by Opelka, who continued to hold after a few unforced errors courtesy of Murray.

“Why did I change direction? Murray shouted out loud. ‘Rush, rush. Absolute madness.

Murray held in a much more direct way and it was at 4-4 that he finally broke Opelka’s resistance.

Opelka's improvisation saw him attempt a

Opelka’s improvisation saw him attempt a ‘tweener’ but he quickly lost his early set advantage

Trailing 15-30, Opelka panicked and looked to close the distance as he raced towards the net.

Murray nailed a passing shot perfectly on Opelka’s forehand to create two break points, which he converted on the next point.

A huge roar followed and Murray was able to serve for a place in the final and then, after two hours and 24 minutes, celebrate his final scalp as he closes in on his 47th career title.

Asked how to handle Opelka’s serve, Murray admitted he was improvising throughout the match.

“To be honest, you can’t prepare for it,” he said. “I chose to block several, which worked pretty well and the second serve isn’t easy.

Murray refused to wither and he converted breaks in sets two and three to reach Saturday's final

Murray refused to wither and he converted breaks in sets two and three to reach Saturday’s final

“It’s tough, but the return has always been one of the strongest parts of my game and I used it well today.”

Looking ahead to a 47th career title, he added: “It would be amazing to start the year with a win, really big progress to string games together.”

“I’m going for 47 tomorrow and it’s been a good week. I played better every game.

He has the prospect of facing Britain’s No. 1 Dan Evans, who is in the semi-finals against Aslan Karatsev later in the session.

An all-British final at ATP Tour level has never happened and so it would be history if Evans progresses.