But three hours later he was still battling, and after the win, he spoke like a player who understood well that success on the court now was as much about how he wins as it is about whether he wins.
Murray said he has been talking about this with his team for some time, which makes sense. His Grand Slam appearances since the start of the pandemic have included either an epic win followed by a quick loss or just a loss in an epic.
Murray and his crew have batted around the idea of playing more aggressively, trying to end points more quickly with more aggressive shots. But that, he said, carries the risk of losing more games, resulting in longer matches, especially now, when he is playing what he characterized as “top 20 level tennis,” as opposed to top five or top two. They decided the fastest route to victories is to play better rather than different.
“Playing my game style but playing it at a higher level,” he said. “When I look back at a lot of my matches in like 2015, 2016, like I was quite sort of efficient and clinical, like when I had opportunities and when I was, you know, ahead of guys, I’d finish them off quickly.”
The price for not finishing them off is plain. Two days after the marathon win against Basilashvili, Murray came out flat and allowed Taro Daniel of Japan, a 28-year-old journeyman ranked 120th, who has never been ranked higher than 64th, to dispatch him in three sets. Murray could not recall ever losing in a Grand Slam to someone ranked outside the top 100.
“Really disappointed,” he said of a result that had him questioning whether he would play another Australian Open, especially if his results at Grand Slams do not improve. “Making second rounds of slams is not something I find particularly motivating.”
Murray, of course, would like once more to be playing in the second week of the most important tournaments, something Nadal did not realize was going to be possible this quickly, and at a time when figuring out how to win quickly has never been more important, with Friday’s win serving as the latest evidence.
“I made the right decisions,” he said.