Andy Murray came back from a set down to overcome Wimbledon doubles champion Max Purcell to secure safe passage into the quarter-finals of the Hall of Fame Open. But the match itself was marred by a series of shocking decisions from line judges in Newport, Rhode Island, as both players were forced into regular challenges – the majority of which proved successful.
Murray had beaten Sam Querrey with ease in the first round, giving the Brit an easy start to the tournament. The American’s serve was well off where it needed to be, while he made far too many unforced errors to ever have the chance of progressing to the next round. It was a different story against Purcell, who is inexperienced as a singles player but proved he has the quality to make his mark when playing well.
The Australian was clearly in a confident mood after beating Adrian Mannarino in round one, and proved it throughout the first part of the match with some stylish shots including a cheeky underarm serve in the first set. But eventually, after voicing his frustration over a series of obviously bad calls from line judges, Murray took the match by the scruff of the net to seal the win and set up a tie with Alexander Bublik in the last eight.
His ranking may have slipped in recent years amid his injury troubles, but Murray’s popularity among crowds around the world remains very much intact. He was given a rousing reception by the modest crowd at Newport as he made his way onto the court shortly before the match began.
And those spectators were pleased to see him start the match by holding his first service game with minimal fuss, before putting immediate pressure on Purcell. The Australian managed to save four break points to level the set, but it was an early indication that Murray was once again looking to get this match over and done with as quickly as possible.
Instead it was Purcell who managed the first break, in a surprising turn of events. Despite his vast experience in doubles, he has only ever played in 16 singles matches on the ATP Tour, losing 10 of them. He was 0-3 this year coming into this tournament, but was on a high after winning Wimbledon with doubles partner Matthew Ebden.
It was clear to see Murray was feeling the pressure, as he let out a huge roar as one lob shot came down perfectly on the line during his next service game. But it didn’t inspire a much-needed hold as he was broken for a second time, leaving the Brit with a mountain to climb if he was to rescue the first set.
After losing five games in a row he finally managed to win his second game of the set, and threatened a stirring fightback as he broke Purcell for the first time straight after. Three games in a row brought the scores back to 5-4, but the Aussie eventually overcame his obvious nerves to hold serve and take the first set against the three-time Grand Slam winner.
Frustrated about his performance, and clearly about the several incorrect calls from line judges that were going against him, Murray received a telling-off from the umpire early in the second set as he hurled his racket into the ground. And he was unable to put that anger to much better use, as eventually Purcell – who also suffered from some bad calls from line judges throughout the match – managed to break early again.
When 2-1 down in the second set, Murray decided enough was enough and requested to speak with referee Gerry Armstrong about the shocking officiating from some of the line judges. Perhaps the opportunity to vent helped him to refocus upon the match, as he breezed through the next game to break Purcell and level the scores in the second set. And it took another successful challenge to go 3-2 up, as a review showed his ace which had been called out actually did clip the line.
For the first time in the match he was really on a roll, and Murray soon had the opportunity to break one more time to take the second set and level the scores. Purcell did well to block a couple of set points, but eventually the Brit’s pressure told and the crowd in Newport was to be treated to a decider at the end of an entertaining and intriguing match.
His winning form continued into the final set as he produced a beautiful slice to drop the ball over the net to hold his first service game. And Murray really took a firm grip of the match as he broke Purcell at the first opportunity in what must have been a real blow to the Australian’s confidence.
Not that he let it affect him – the Wimbledon doubles champion rallied to break back immediately, in a warning to Murray that he was not going to let this one go without a fight. Despite that resolve, he was powerless to prevent the Brit from rolling back the years to make sure his two-game cushion was restored. And he came through a nervy deuce game to make it 4-1 and make the match start to look like it was beyond Purcell’s reach.
The break in the following game made the result little more than a formality, with Murray’s experience proving the difference in the key moments despite Purcell’s superior start to the match. The Brit will now enjoy a well-earned day off before taking on Bublik in the quarter-finals.