Despondent Murray misses seven match points, loses epic with Koepfer in Paris
The former world No 1 could not close out the match as he suffered a hugely-disappointing defeat in round one of the Rolex Paris Masters
Former world No 1 Andy Murray missed seven match points as his hopes of a lengthy run at the Rolex Paris Masters ended at the hands of Germany’s Dominik Koepfer in a crazy, epic first-round battle on Monday.
Having almost lost in straight sets, the Scot had two match points at 5-4 in the third and then five more in the tiebreak but world No 58 Koepfer, a lucky loser into the main draw, held strong and as Murray faltered on the match points, he took his first to clinch one of the best victories of his career, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (9)
It was a crazy match which lasted three hours, one minute in front of an enthralled Bercy crowd, most of them pulling for Murray, doubtless amazed at the ability of the man with a metal hip to compete at this level.
How he failed to take one of his seven match points is something that might haunt him for a while but Koepfer also deserves credit for holding his nerve under huge pressure at the end, especially having failed to serve out the match at 5-4.
The German will play either Felix Auger-Aliassime or Gianluca Mager in the second round.
Murray makes slow start as Koepfer pulls ahead
Murray had arrived in Paris encouraged by some good performances in recent weeks but the Scot looked flat and a little heavy-legged and was outplayed by the world No 58, who only made it in to the main draw as a lucky loser.
Koepfer had won just three games in the final round of qualifying as he lost to Miomir Kecmanovic but with Murray well below par, he kept his concentration and took his chances.
The German struck first when he broke for 3-2 but Murray should have broken back immediately, only to miss an easy volley. Though Koepfer faltered at 5-2, he made no mistake second time around as he closed out the set.
Murray wakes up just in time to level
Murray’s serve was misfiring and his returns were not as sharp as normal and Koepfer took advantage as he broke on the way to a 2-0 lead in the second set.
Again, the Scot created a chance to break back at 3-2 but Koepfer, who pushed Roger Federer hard at the French Open earlier this year, moved up 5-3 and at deuce on the Murray serve, he was two points from victory.
At that stage, it seemed that Murray had only his reputation left to offer as resistance but suddenly he woke up. After holding for 5-4, he played a brilliant opening point on the Koepfer serve and the German blinked. Murray broke back to love, held easily and grabbed his second set point to take the match into a decider.
With all the momentum, Murray held serve to start the third set and at 15-30 on the German’s serve in the next game, had a half chance to extend his lead. But Koepfer dug in.
Murray had struggled on serve throughout the evening but he held to love for 3-2, only for Koepfer to do the same. In the seventh game, Murray found himself down 0-40 and was shouting “Go home” to himself. But again Murray found something when he needed it, hitting five first serves to get himself out of trouble.
At 4-4, Murray showed stunning athleticism to win a superb point at 15-15, chasing down a drop shot and threading the ball down the line, his momentum taking him around the net, a point that had the crowd on their feet again.
Seven match points come and go as Koepfer grabs the win
At 5-4, Murray turned on the style to force two match points at 15-40 on Koepfer’s serve. To his credit, the German saved the first with a good smash and the second, after an average drop shot from Murray, with a backhand winner and went on to hold.
Murray stayed ahead with a decent service game and Koepfer held to love as the match went to a deciding tiebreak. Murray recovered from 2-0 down and looked home and dry when he led 6-4, but couldn’t take either of the two match points, nor the fifth, sixth, or seventh as Koepfer stayed in the match. And when the German got his first match point, he took it to earn a dramatic victory and leave Murray shaking his head as he left the court.