Murray spurns seven match points in Paris Masters defeat by Koepfer

Andy Murray spurned a remarkable seven match points as he crashed out in the first round of the Paris Masters to German lucky loser Dominik Koepfer. The Scot had looked set to rally from the brink of defeat after defying Koepfer when the German served for the match at 5-4 in the second set.

But having reeled off two successive breaks of serve to force a decider, Murray missed his first two match points on the Koepfer serve at 5-4, before blowing five more in an 18-minute tie-break to fall 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (9). It capped an amazing shift in fortunes for Koepfer, who had been thumped 6-3, 6-0 by Miomir Kecmanovic in the final round of qualifying only to earn a second chance following the withdrawal of Murray’s original opponent, Jenson Brooksby.

Koepfer looked set to take full advantage as Murray started in listless fashion, falling a double break down before dropping the first set, then losing his serve again in the first game of the second. But when Koepfer failed to serve out for the match it seemed the momentum had swung back towards Murray, who looked determined to advance at a tournament where his victory in 2016 sealed his rise to world No 1.

If his current ambitions are more modest, Murray looked as hungry as ever as he saved three break points to hold for 4-3 before fashioning his first of many match-winning opportunities at 5-4.

This time it was Koepfer who rallied, forcing a final set tie-break in which he saved five more match point chances for Murray, the best of which with a flashing cross-court backhand to drag the breaker back level at 6-6. In contrast to Murray, Koepfer would need just one chance to seal victory, a long forehand from Murray bringing an end to the drama.

Earlier, Cameron Norrie kept alive his hopes of qualifying for the ATP Finals with a dominant victory over Federico Delbonis in the first round.

The British No 1 endured a painful defeat against Félix Auger-Aliassime in Vienna last week, having held match points, but began strongly in the French capital, winning nine games in a row in a 6-2, 6-1 victory over the Argentinian Delbonis. It was Norrie’s 100th tour-level win, 49 of which have come this year.

The 26-year-old Norrie said: “I know the score looked fairly comfortable but there were a lot of tough games in there. I felt I played a pretty complete match and really enjoyed my tennis again. It was far from easy but I was happy with my performance.”

Norrie sits 11th in the race to qualify for the eight-man season-ending tournament in Turin and needs to make up 140 points on the Italian Jannik Sinner over the next two weeks.

“It’s pretty cool just to be in the race for that and to be playing these matches with a little added pressure and a little added motivation,” said Norrie, who hit another career-high ranking of 13th. “You’re kind of watching what everyone else is doing and I think it’s pretty interesting and it’s exactly where I want to be and the matches I want to be playing.”

In the second round Norrie will face either the American Reilly Opelka or Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic.

Dan Evans’ bid to join him in the second round was ended in a 2-6, 7-5 7-5 defeat by Alexander Bublik.

The British No 2 raced through the opening set but was pegged back in the second as the Kazakh clinched the crucial break to level the match.

Bublik broke Evans again at 4-4 in the third set but failed to convert a match point and Evans seized advantage of his fourth break point to haul back level at 5-5. But just when it seemed the momentum had shifted back in favour of the Briton, Bublik broke again and made no mistake the second time round as he served out to seal victory.