Britain’s Andy Murray hits a return against Ukraine’s Illya Marchenko during their men’s singles match on day one of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 16, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / PETER PARKS / IMAGE
Andy Murray said he’ll never give up in his quest for an elusive Australian Open title after grinding out a hard-earned win over Illya Marchenko in round one on Monday.
The world number one, who has lost five Australian finals — four of them to his key rival Novak Djokovic — carved out a 7-5, 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 victory in 2hr 47min on Rod Laver Arena.
It was an unforgiving workout for the British top seed, who fought back after a wobbly beginning to wear down his 93rd-ranked Ukrainian opponent in draining heat.
Murray will take on Russian qualifier Andrey Rublev in the second round.
But Murray said he was far from daunted by the challenge in Melbourne, saying he has played some of his best tennis at the tournament over the years.
“I have had a lot of tough losses here, for sure. But I love it here. I love playing here,” he said.
“I played some of my best tennis on hard courts here. Played some great matches as well, but just haven’t managed to win the final.
“But I keep coming back to try. Yeah, I’ll keep doing that until I’m done.
“I still feel like I got a few years left to try and do it. Yeah, hopefully it will be this year.”
The world number one began shakily with three double faults and along with an unforced forehand error he dropped his opening service game.
He said his slow start was down to a number of factors.
“I don’t think it was the best match, to be honest. The conditions were pretty different to what we’ve been practising. Last week’s been pretty cool,” Murray said.
“When it’s like that, the ball is bouncing a bit lower, a bit easier to control the ball. I was a bit tentative because of that.
“And I didn’t serve that well either. So you end up having to work really hard on a lot of your service games when it’s like that.”
Murray broke back and appeared to be getting into the groove to be serving for the set at 5-3, but Marchenko reeled off two winning passes to break his serve.
The Scot sat in his chair fuming at he changeover, repeatedly saying “Shocking, shocking stuff” directed to his player’s box across the court.
He finally wrapped up the opening set in 55 minutes after breaking the Ukrainian’s serve at 6-5.
But a sign of his frustration was that his serve was broken in three of his first eight service games.
Murray needed 76 minutes to claim a tiebreaker and forge a two sets to nil lead in a very physical encounter, before grabbing a double break off the wilting Marchenko to take charge of the deciding set and storm to victory.