|Venue: All England Club Dates: 28 June-11 July|
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Britain’s Andy Murray defied the odds yet again as he reached the Wimbledon third round by beating German qualifier Oscar Otte in another thriller which finished under the Centre Court lights.
The Scot led by a set and a break but momentum switched to Otte, an SW19 debutant ranked 151st in the world.
Murray, 34, looked weary as Otte won the third set for a 2-1 lead, before darkness forced the pair off court.
But with the crowd behind him, Murray fought back to win 6-3 4-6 4-6 6-4 6-2.
The 7,500 fans allowed inside Centre Court as part of the government’s event research programme had been subdued until Murray – who thought in 2019 he would have to retire because of a serious hip injury – urged them for more support from the fourth set onwards.
Then it turned into an electric atmosphere as a pumped-up Murray played himself towards victory, backed by the sound of singing and chanting from the partisan crowd.
“I enjoyed the end of the match. The middle part not so much,” said Murray, who has had a series of niggling injuries since having career-saving hip resurfacing surgery.
“What an atmosphere to play in at the end. The whole crowd was amazing but there were a few guys in there getting me fired up. I needed everyone’s help.”
It was another incredible evening for Murray at the All England Club, coming just 48 hours after the two-time champion had beaten Georgian 24th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili.
Like that match, Murray returned reinvigorated – mentally, physically and tactically – from the enforced break for the roof to be closed.
After the pair returned to the court after a 15-minute pause, Murray won seven of the next nine games to take control.
There was still time for more tension and excitement. Murray struggled to hold serve for 5-2, getting over the line with a stretching volley which left even his watching wife Kim shaking her head in disbelief.
Then, he sealed a remarkable victory with a moment of brilliance. On the first of two match points, with Otte racing forward, Murray produced an inch-perfect lob which left him smiling and shaking his head as Centre Court erupted.
Now Murray will face a step up in class when he plays Canadian 10th seed Denis Shapovalov in the third round on Friday.
Shapovalov, 22, will be well rested after being given a walkover on Wednesday because of a rib injury to second-round opponent Pablo Andujar of Spain.
Murray answers questions about recovery in style
When he made a first Wimbledon singles appearance in four years on Monday, Murray produced arguably his most impressive display since returning from the serious hip surgery in January 2019 which he thought would end his career.
The next question was whether he would be able to recover sufficiently for another Grand Slam match 48 hours later.
Murray had spoken about how he could “barely walk” the day after beating Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka at the US Open last year – the last time he had played five sets.
That was down to the niggling groin injury which has continued to dog Murray over the nine months since.
Encouragingly he had been able to practice at the All England Club on Tuesday and initially looked to be moving well against Otte.
Murray moved through the gears nicely to take the opening set with a second break of serve, then looked completely in command when he broke again for a 2-1 lead in the second.
A sloppy service game let the German instantly wipe that out and, playing with more aggression and confidence, Otte broke for 4-3 with the help of three wonderful winners.
As Otte served out the set, Murray became more despondent. The chuntering we have seen throughout his career became more intense, while his body language had a sense of resignation.
The Centre Court atmosphere had become subdued and virtual silence – other than Otte’s roar of celebration – greeted the end of the third.
Murray had barely rallied the crowd up to that point, but suddenly seemed to realise he needed to feed off a louder atmosphere.
The fans obliged and that inspired Murray, who was now landing the winners and reaching the balls which he could not in the middle part of the match.
“I had to do something different. I started going for my shots more, started dictating more of the points,” he said.
“Because of the lack of matches I didn’t make the right decisions a lot of the time.”