Last month, Andy Murray cut an oddly relaxed figure for someone who had just crashed out of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships — and come up one short of joining a very exclusive club.
The Scotsman was stuck on 699 ATP career wins after he was defeated 7-5, 6-2 in the second round at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Centre by talented young Italian Jannik Sinner.
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“I am happy with my game and I know I will get there,” Murray told Gulf News at the time of his ambition of joining only a handful of players to have won 700 professional matches on tour.
Get there he did on one of the biggest stages in tennis at Indian Wells, fighting back to beat Japan’s Taro Daniel 1-6, 6-2, 6-4 and become the only the 18th player of all time to reach 700 wins — joining the likes of Jimmy Connors, Roger Federer, Ivan Lendl, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, Stefan Edberg and Pete Sampras in the 700 gang.
Murray overcame a slow start and a third set service break to overcome Daniel in California at the ATP Masters 1000 event
“This was a target that I set for myself at the back end of last year,” Murray said. “It’s a lot of wins obviously, and I’m very happy to get it here.” He added with a smile: “Let’s go for 800 now.”
It was fitting that Murray had Lendl back in his corner as he was the man who helped guide the former world No. 1 to his first two Grand Slam titles — 2012 US Open and 2013 Wimbledon Championship — before injuries and hip surgery saw him fall down the ranks before his long awaited return to some sort of form last year.
And now his fighting spirit has returned too. Murray sprang to life in the second set after a meek surrender in the first did not bode well. The Scotsman then rallied from an early break in the third to hold his nerve and seal the long-awaited landmark victory.
“I got off to a bit of a slow start,” the 34-year-old said. “I’m old now so with these 11am starts, it takes me a bit of time to get going.
Tournament wild card Murray will look to notch his 701st win when he faces Alexander Bublik in the second round.