WATCH: Murray secured victory on his fourth match point to win in just under three hours in Cincy.

Andy Murray gritted through a tense encounter with Stan Wawrinka, ultimately overcoming his longtime rival, 7-6 (3), 5-7 7-5 to advance after nearly three hours at the Western & Southern Open.

The former world No. 1 shook off a second-set hiccup, physical struggles, and a dramatic final game to extend his head-to-head lead over Wawrinka to 13-9 after two hours and 56 minutes on Center Court, continuing his arduous journey back to tennis’ upper echelon following hip resurfacing.

Murray had fallen in the first hurdle of his two previous US Open warm-up events, enduring defeats to Mikael Ymer and Taylor Fritz in Washington D.C. and Montréal, respectively—making Cincinnati his last big chance to gain valuable reps ahead of the 2022 season’s final major tournament.

"I felt I was feeling good like in Madrid. I felt pretty good during the grass. I got unfortunate with the ab injury, which was not bad but it was enough to sort of disrupt me in the buildup to that," Murray said after the match.

"In terms of how I pulled up after matches and stuff has been the best I have felt in a really long time. So that's good. I would like my tennis to be better at times, because I'm still convinced that it can be better than where it is right now.

"It's not been easy these last few years to stay fit and healthy and play enough tennis to get matches to learn from and to build confidence and to get my body sort of physically like robust enough to compete week in, week out. That's a positive thing that I got to play lots of matches or more matches this year. Hopefully I can continue that through the end of the season."


Right now I'm having to play and compete to try and maintain ranking and to hopefully get seeded in the events and get into more tournaments, not have to rely on wildcards. So, yeah, it's a difficult balance. Andy Murray

Standing in his way was Wawrinka, a former world No. 3 who is in the midst of his own comeback from surgery on his left foot and arrived to Mason, Ohio in search of a first ATP main-draw win since Queen’s Club, where he defeated Frances Tiafoe in three grueling sets.

"I know I'm on the right direction," Wawrinka said of his road back. "I'm feeling much better physically, and tennis-wise, the work I have done since Båstad, I did a big preparation.

"I know I'm going to get there. I need confidence in myself and what I'm doing. It takes maybe a bit more time when you get older, because you know exactly which impact can play any part on the game, so you are thinking maybe twice before playing. But it's okay. I will keep working out and get there soon."

The venerated duo have played their share of epics over nearly two decades, but were facing off for the first time since 2020 Roland Garros, where Wawrinka had gotten the better of his British foe in straight sets.

Murray, however, had won all of their hard-court matches dating back to 2015 and edged through a hard-fought opening set on Monday—one that featured no service breaks through 12 games.

It was Wawrinka, though, who would score the first break of the match, turning the tables on Murray to find himself serving for the second set, and though Murray would level things at five games apiece, the Swiss star barreled through the next two games to force a final set.


Murray gets countryman Cameron Norrie next.

Murray gets countryman Cameron Norrie next.

Both men would require visits from the trainer as the match neared its otherwise thrilling conclusion: 37-year-old Wawrinka first called for assistance with an apparent leg injury while 35-year-old Murray appeared to be dealing with his own struggles, stretching his quads and briefly resorting to under-arm serving.

"I was struggling with that towards the end of the second set," Murray said, "and so, I mean, psychologically there is a feeling, like, you know you're close to the end of the match potentially in the second set, so maybe you are going to try and sometimes play a little bit more conservatively, because when I was getting into the return games or making balls on the return games, you know, Stan was making a few errors.

"But then obviously when I lost that set and then was struggling with the cramping, like, I had no option and nothing to lose really. So I started trying to be a little bit more offensive and finish the points quicker, and actually started to feel all right towards the end of the match and managed to find a way through."

Though he initially surrendered an early break as a result, Murray quickly broke back and converted the final break point of the match at 5-5 to put himself a game away from victory.

It took four match points in a marathon conclusion, but Murray got the job done to book a second-round clash with fellow Brit Cameron Norrie, who needed three sets of his own to defeat Danish teenager Holger Rune earlier in the afternoon.

Murray and Norrie have faced off at an ATP tournament just once before, with Murray winning their 2019 China Open match in three sets. Norrie has since gone on to become a Top 15 staple four titles in the last two years—including the BNP Paribas Open last fall—and a maiden Wimbledon semifinal only three weeks ago.