Twice champion Andy Murray survived a third-set meltdown to beat Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4 6-3 5-7 6-3 on Monday in his first singles match at Wimbledon for four years.
Back on the hallowed Centre Court turf on which he became a British sporting icon, the 34-year-old delighted his fans as he rolled back the years, producing vintage shot-making to lead by two sets and 5-0 in the third.
Basilashvili, the 24th seed, looked down and out but the drama had only just begun as Murray tightened up and his lead began to shrink.
Initially, it looked like being only a glitch but when two match points went begging as Basilashvili served at 3-5, Murray began to resemble a man with his arm set in concrete.
Tension filled the air as the crowd tried to lift the former world number one who lost seven successive games to send the match into a fourth set.
Basilashvili had recovered from two sets down to beat Britain’s James Ward in the first round in 2019 and with nagging doubts about Murray’s physical condition after playing only a handful of top-level matches this year a repeat looked possible.
With darkness descending over the All England Club, the players left the court while the sliding roof was closed and lights switched on to enable the match to be completed.
The interruption had a rejuvenating effect on Murray who returned to break serve to love in the first game of the fourth.
Basilashvili broke back immediately with a piercing backhand down the line but then dropped his serve to love again.
Murray had chances for a 4-1 lead in the fourth but Basilashvili dug in to stay in touch and the Georgian then had a break point to get back to 4-4.
But Murray saved that with a delicate drop shot and pushed hard to win the match on Basilashvili’s next service game.
Basilashvili saved a third match point with a sweet winner but at the fourth time of asking Murray got the job done when his opponent sent a backhand into the net.