Three-time grand slam champion Andy Murray has the chance to win his first ATP title since 2019 after battling through to the final of the Sydney Tennis Classic.
Murray displayed plenty of fighting spirit to come from a set down for a 6-7 (8-6) 6-4 6-4 win over towering world No.25 Reilly Opelka on Friday.
The Scot will take on Aslan Karatsev in Saturday’s final after the Russian world No.20 prevented an all-British final by beating Dan Evans 6-3 6-7 (15-13) 6-3 in an epic last-four encounter.
After years plagued by injury, Murray hasn’t won an ATP event since triumphing in Antwerp in October, 2019, and he’s desperate to secure title No.47.
“It would be amazing to start the year with a win,” 34-year-old Murray said in his on-court interview.
“It’s already been a great week for me, big progress from anything I’ve done in the last year or so.
“To string four matches together like this, against a couple of top players in Nikoloz Basilashvili and Opelka (has been good).
“I’ll go for 47 tomorrow. It’s been a good week. I’ve played better with each match. Hopefully I step it up tomorrow.”
A debilitating hip injury several years ago that required two rounds of surgery put Murray’s career in the balance.
But the 34-year-old’s smooth movement on the court this week has buoyed hopes he can rewind the clock and make real inroads at the Australian Open where he has been runner-up five times.
Neither Murray or Opelka could generate a break-point chance in an opening set that was decided by a tiebreak.
Murray rallied from 5-1 down in the tiebreak to level things at 6-6, saving a set point along the way.
But when he put a backhand slice into the net, he handed Opelka another set point that the 211cm American took full advantage of.
Murray yelled out in frustration once the set slipped through his fingers, but he snared an early break in the second set to send the match to a decider.
The former world No.1 fluffed break-point opportunities at 15-40 on two occasions in the third set.
But he made amends when the next chance came his way, securing the vital break in the ninth game to set up the victory.
“I lost a tight first set, and it’s not easy to come back against someone that serves like that and plays that game style,” Murray said.
“But I kept fighting, I kept putting returns in play, created opportunities and managed to get the win.
“The return has always been one of the strongest parts of my game and I used it well today.”