Andy Murray battles from set down to overcome Christopher O’Connell in Dubai
The former world number one dropped the opening set on a tie-break but hit back to triumph 6-7 (4) 6-3 7-5 for a 699th career victory.
It was a hard-fought return to winning ways after the chastening 6-0 6-1 defeat Murray suffered against Roberto Bautista Agut in Qatar last week.
The Scot cut a frustrated figure as he threw his racket to the floor after he was easily passed to give O’Connell, ranked 158, two break points at 4-4 in the first set.
He saved the first, but the racket hit the deck again as he punched a forehand wide to hand his opponent the break.
It seemed to provide the spark Murray needed, though, as he bounced back immediately by forcing two break points and converted the second to level the set.
However, the 34-year-old was unable to take advantage of a mini-break in the tie-break and the racket was flying once more as he gave up the opening set after a 68-minute slog.
A break to love at the start of the second improved Murray’s mood and he dropped just five points on serve on his way to levelling the match.
The three-time grand slam champion had to dig deep to get out of trouble at 4-4 in the decider, saving four break points to stay afloat.
A stunning get to pass O’Connell down the line brought up three match points, and the crowd to its feet, and Murray converted the second to complete a marathon victory in just under three hours.
Murray, still battling his way back up the rankings following his career-saving hip surgery, said on court: “I enjoyed the result. What went on in the middle was not so easy.
“I was very frustrated early in the match. I couldn’t quite find may game and he was dictating a lot of the rallies. But I managed to serve a little bit better as the match went along and that helped me a lot.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of ex-players and they keep telling me keep playing as long as I can, nothing will replace it. I still feel like I can compete at the highest level.
“It’s not easy. Physically it’s very challenging for me but winning matches like that is obviously very satisfying.”
Murray will face Alejandro Davidovich Fokina or Jannik Sinner in the next round.
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