Murray gets first straight-set win in five months with Albot victory

Andy Murray earned his first match win in straight sets since October’s Gijon Open. All seven of his victories in 2023 had come in a final set but the world No 55 finally broke that streak as he downed lucky loser Radu Albot 6-4 6-3 in the second round of the Indian Wells Masters. And it sets up an exciting all-British third-round clash against Jack Draper.

Murray faced a late change of opponent for his second-round match when 15th seed Pablo Carreno Busta withdrew from Indian Wells and Albot took his place as a lucky loser, receiving a bye to the second round to face the world No 55. Murray had already overcome Tomas Etcheverry 6-7(5) 6-1 6-4 in the opening round – continuing his run of only winning matches in a final set this year.

It was the first-ever meeting between the Brit and the world No 109, and Murray continued to threaten the Albot serve in the opening set but couldn’t capitalise on his break points. The Moldovan saved one at 1-2 and had to fend off three more at 2-3 as the three-time Grand Slam champion couldn’t make the most of his opportunities.

The former world No 1 was then caught in a disagreement with umpire Mohamed Lahyani when he received a time violation while Albot was serving at 3-4. Murray argued that the shot clock started too quickly after an ace from his opponent which led him to run over time while going to use his towel.

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He continued the discussion at the changeover but was told that Lahyani had to force his hand because it wasn’t the first time as the chair official responded: “I had no choice, two times you did it in the same game. There was two times you went there.” Murray was quick to bounce back though, setting up his fifth break point of the match while 5-4 up and breaking to take the first set 6-4 in 46 minutes. 

Murray continued to press the Albot serve in the second set as he went 0-40 up at 2-1 but again he was unable to capitalise. Two more came and went at 3-2 but the world No 55 was able to create a third break point chance and finally converted it to put himself within touching distance of the third round. With the break finally secured, the Brit was able to serve out a 6-4 6-3 victory in an hour and 41 minutes – five months after his last win in straight sets.

The 35-year-old has earned himself the reputation of being a marathon man this season with all his wins coming in a final set, while he has also saved nine match point en route to a win this year. But he finally broke his duck and managed to notch a straight-set victory for the first time since October, when he beat Gijon Open sixth seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-5 6-2.

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Murray last reached the third round of Indian Wells in 2021 – when the event was postponed to October amid the pandemic – and beat a then-world No 38 Carlos Alcaraz en route, correctly claiming the Spaniard would go on to become No 1 in the world. And he will likely be hoping his next opponent is also a future No 1, as he next faces compatriot Draper in an all-British clash.

The 21-year-old already faced another Brit earlier on Saturday, defeating Dan Evans 6-4 6-2. The pair have never met on the tour but faced off at the Battle of the Brits in December – a team exhibition event created by Murray’s brother Jamie – where experience beat youth 6-2 1-6 [12-10] in a clash that went down to a match tiebreak.

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