Andy Murray claimed a milestone 700th career match win at Indian Wells on Friday after battling back to defeat Japan’s Taro Daniel in their third meeting of the year.
The three-time Grand Slam winner, who has announced he will begin working with Ivan Lendl for a third time in the lead-up to Wimbledon, turned the tide after losing the first set to come through 1-6 6-2 6-4 in the first round.
Daniel has a liking for the surface in the California desert having shocked former world No 1 Djokovic for the biggest win of his career in 2018.
The Japanese world No 106 hit 10 winners and made just three unforced errors as he outclassed Murray – breaking him twice – and dominating the court to win the opening set in 29 minutes.
Having already beaten the Scot in straight sets at the Australian Open, Daniel was looking good for a repeat in a match which was rich in quality.
Murray, who gained revenge just a couple of weeks later at the Qatar Open, found his rhythm and an extra bit of pace in his first serve and groundstrokes to establish a comfortable 5-0 lead in the second set.
Daniel pulled a couple of games back to add a bit of respectability to the scoreline before the 34-year-old broke again to seal the set.
But just when Murray looked to have the momentum, qualifier Daniel recaptured his earlier form to break Murray’s serve in the opening game of their deciding-set shootout. However, the Scot struck back to level at 3-3.
Murray has pledged to donate his prize money for the rest of the year to help children affected by the war in Ukraine, and, cheered on by the Centre Court crowd, the world No 88 wrapped up his historic victory with a break of serve in the 10th game on his third match point.
“I got off to a bit of a slow start,” Murray said. “I’m old now so with these 11am starts, it takes me a bit of time to get going.
“But Taro played extremely well. I lost to him in Australia so I was expecting a tough match.”
Tournament wild card Murray will look to notch his 701st win when he faces Alexander Bublik in the second round of the Masters 1000 tournament on Sunday.
“He’s a very unorthodox player,” added Murray. “He’s unbelievably talented, got great hand skills and plays different to a lot of guys on the tour these days.
“He started this year well, but if I play well, I’ve got a shot.”