MATCH POINT: Koepfer secures comeback vs. Murray

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How does one go about flipping the switch of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory to snatching victory from the jaws of defeat? Lucky loser Dominik Koepfer might be able to answer that burning question after leaving Andy Murray reeling by the end of their first-round thriller at the Paris Masters.

On Monday evening, the left-hander stared down seven match points to knock out the 2016 champion, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (9), after just over three hours of battle. Koepfer saved the first two match points at 4-5, 15-40 on his serve in the third set, before wiping away five more in the decisive tiebreaker, which included a 4-6 deficit.

"I heard about it at 4’o’clock," Koepfer shared in a post-match interview. "I was about to go back to the hotel and then one of the ATP tour managers texted, ‘Dom you’re in and you’re playing against Andy Murray.’

"Honestly, I was a little nervous. I didn’t expect to play today. I was hoping someone was going to pull out tomorrow. Night match here in Paris. Lot of fans, an unbelievable crowd and the first time for me in a while. It’s been a great day. Unexpected but it worked out, and I’m happy."

Koepfer was 2-5 in main-draw matches on the Masters 1000 stage this year heading into Monday.

Koepfer was 2-5 in main-draw matches on the Masters 1000 stage this year heading into Monday. 

It marked the first time Murray lost from match point up in nine years, when he fell to Jerzy Janowicz on this very Court Centrale.

And, almost certainly, it's the first time Murray has lost after holding seven of them.

Initially, it appeared Murray wasn’t going to factor into this contest until Koepfer tightened up. Leading 6-4, 5-3, the German was later broken at love when he served for the contest in the 10th game of the second set. Murray had looked flat up until that point, but he capitalized on new life in the clash to get back on an even playing field.

But the 34-year-old’s good fortune in opening-round three-setters finally caught up to him. In his first two European indoor events, Murray survived the ATP’s longest best-of-three set contest of the season in Antwerp when he erased two match points to topple Frances Tiafoe. A week later at Vienna’s 500-level tournament, he missed a match point in the second set of his opener with Hubert Hurkacz, though recovered to defeat the Pole, 6-3, in the third.

One noticeable theme with Murray when he was a point away from the finish line against Koepfer was a seeming sense of powerlessness. On two match points, Murray retreated to his backhand drop shot and was bested by backhand crosscourt winning replies. With the two held on his racquet, Murray did not land a first serve. Two more were ended by loose backhand errors, one with a delayed slice and one with a yanked crosscourt misfire. Meanwhile, Koepfer struck three winners in total when his back was against the wall, including a confident smash putaway.

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One noticeable theme with Murray when he was a point away from the finish line against Koepfer was a seeming sense of powerlessness.

"I did really well to get myself in the position to win the match, but I don't think I deserved to win, to be honest," Murray said in his press conference. "I had a ton of opportunities at the end to do it, but the way that I was playing tonight was not good enough."

The Scot’s original opponent, Jenson Brooksby, withdrew prior to the match with an injury. Koepfer gained entry into the main draw as a lucky loser for the second straight week, having moved into both the singles and doubles fields in Vienna. He awaits ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime or qualifier Gianluca Mager.

Murray is slated to compete at next week’s Stockholm Open, an ATP 250 event, thanks to a wild-card invitation. One has to wonder following a crushing loss like this and heavy traveling since mid-September, if Murray is better served returning it, resting and looking ahead to his 2022 preparation.