Battling Andy Murray downs Denis Shapovalov to set up first clash with Novak Djokovic since 2017

Where the British youngsters fell short on Tuesday in Madrid, the seasoned veteran stepped up as Andy Murray scored his best win of the year – and set up a first meeting in five years with world No 1 Novak Djokovic.

In what was at times a laser-focused performance, Murray downed 17th-ranked Denis Shapovalov at the Mutua Madrid Open in three sets to reach the last-16, which will be his long-awaited 37th match against Djokovic.

The last time he and the Serb met, in Doha in January 2017, Murray was the world No 1 but just months away from being incapacitated by the hip injury that would set his career off course for the next three years. Now, ranked 78th and still on the comeback trail, Murray will finally be able to test himself against the greatest rival of his career.

And the 34-year-old admitted the possibility had played on his mind during Tuesday’s match.

“I thought about it a little bit at the beginning of the third set,” Murray said afterwards. “I didn’t know if I was going to get the opportunity to play matches like that again. In theory, I shouldn’t have a chance, I’ll try my hardest. 

“But I’ve put myself in a great position, I’ve worked extremely hard the last five to six weeks to put myself here. And it’s a fantastic opportunity to play him again on a huge court so I look forward to it.”

The opportunity is all thanks to his hard-fought, late-night 6-1 3-6 6-2 win, which was Murray’s first top-20 scalp of the year and best since he beat Jannik Sinner (10) in Stockholm last November. 

It is also only the second time he has recorded consecutive wins at a tournament this season. And  all the more impressive because he and Shapovalov’s only previous meeting was at Wimbledon last year, where Murray was easily dispatched by the Canadian in a straight-sets third round defeat.

Since then, Shapovalov has linked up with Murray’s coach of five years Jamie Delgado – who he split from last year – but the insider intel was not enough to help the Canadian. Murray, as he did in the first round against Dominic Thiem, looked as good as he has since returning to the tour with a metal hip, especially in the first set.

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