CNN  — 

Andy Murray’s return to grand slam tennis was predictably dramatic. It was also victorious.

Murray might have needed hip resurfacing surgery to save his career but his reserves were there for all to see as he rallied Tuesday from two sets down and saved a match point to defeat Japanese shot maker Yoshihito Nishioka 4-6 4-6 7-6 (5) 7-6 (4) 6-4 in four hours, 39 minutes.

It was indeed some escape for Murray, who also trailed the left-hander 3-1 in the third, took a medical time out for a toe issue to end the fourth and was behind by a break at 3-2 in the fifth.

Ultimately, Murray played the big points better on Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows, New York, going 4-for-6 on break points compared to the 49th-ranked Nishioka’s 5-for-16 in their first meeting.

That included saving the match point at 5-6 in the fourth when Nishioka sent his return from a first serve long.

Murray became the second British player in as many days to fend off a match point and rally from two sets down after Cameron Norrie did the same against Diego Schwartzman.

Andy Murray sits in his chair after seeing off Yoshihito Nishioka at the US Open.

The three-time grand slam champion last contested a singles grand slam match at the 2019 Australian Open in what many thought would be his final tournament.

Hampered severely by hip issues, the Scot said prior to Melbourne he was calling it quits but hoped to bid adieu at his home grand slam tournament, Wimbledon.

But after taking one of the game’s toughest competitors, Roberto Bautista Agut, to five sets – yes, five more sets – the father of three opted for the hip resurfacing operation in an attempt to keep things going.

Promising showing last week

It hasn’t been smooth sailing since – his lone grand slam action since the surgery came in doubles at Wimbledon in 2019 – but Murray upset Alexander Zverev at last week’s warmup Western & Southern Open.

“I felt way better today at the end of that match than I did when I played Bautista in Australia,” said Murray. “I’m not sitting here with my hip throbbing and aching. I’ll be able to sleep fine tonight and things like that.”

The Western & Southern Open was also held on the grounds of the US Open as part of tennis’ much discussed bubble, rather than in its usual home near Cincinnati, Ohio.

No fans are on site due to the coronavirus pandemic but the likes of Naomi Osaka, Dominic Thiem and Grigor Dimitrov took in the action from their luxury corporate suites on center court. All seeded players in singles were given the vacant suites.

MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 20: Andy Murray of Great Britain plays a forehand shot during his Davis Cup Group Stage match against Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands during Day Three of the 2019 Davis Cup at La Caja Magica on November 20, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images for LTA)
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Murray said he drew strength from seeing that brother Jamie – a doubles specialist – and father in-law Nigel Sears were also among those watching him.

“In some ways that can be a little bit distracting if you look up and you’ve got guys that are in the top five, top 10 in the world watching you and stuff,” said Murray.

“But for me, I had my father-in-law there. I had my brother there with his coach watching. There was a few of the British players that came out to watch and support, as well.

“Although the atmosphere was very flat overall, at the end of the match and as I was starting to turn it around, I could at least look up and see some faces in different points of the court to give me a little bit of encouragement, which definitely, definitely helped.”

Murray shook his fist after Nishioka’s overhead from a superb lob landed long on the final point. He hadn’t tasted victory at a grand slam in singles since the 2018 US Open.

“I think it was pretty emotional straight after the match finished,” he said. “When I got back to the locker room, sort of look at my phone, see the messages from family and friends, the team and stuff.

“They’re the people that have kind of seen me go through everything, been there, seen the tough times. I don’t know how many of us actually believed I’d be back kind of winning matches like that.