Andy Murray finally vanquishes Nikoloz Basilashvili after see-sawing Australian Open thriller

In many ways, this was a match devoid of any internal logic. You would hardly have anticipated that Murray, after racing through the opening set in 23 minutes, would be lured into a slugfest lasting nearly four hours. Basilashvili was abject at first, listless in attitude and woefully errant in execution. 

His struggles were no more neatly captured than when he limbered up for a second serve in the third game, missing the point of impact by such a margin that the ball skied off the frame into the stands.

It was a staggering miscue from a player of his standard. Basilashvili might have been No 1 in ball speed off both the forehand and backhand wings last year, but he was No 1 for brain-fades here, routinely flunking attempted winners halfway up the net. Only in the second set did he seem to remember that he was playing a wildcard, moving Murray expertly from side to side to subdue some boisterous Scottish support in the crowd.

Not that Murray was about to be easily cowed. A remarkable break of serve for 3-2 in the third encapsulated his spirit, as somehow he prevailed in a succession of gruelling rallies, pinned back as he waited for Basilashvili to lose patience. Come the fourth, the momentum only seemed to be flowing in one direction, the younger man finding his rage while the bionic veteran visibly tired.

But any critics should surely know better now than to regard his demise as a fate foretold. Breaking Basilashvili one final time at 5-4 in the fifth, he raised his arms slowly through the air, as if he had come through 12 rounds of a heavyweight prizefight. Which, in a manner of speaking, he had. This was a product of three years of Murray believing, despite all evidence to the contrary, that he still had one more encore left to conjure.

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