Murray rallies to master challenge of Mirnyi

Some of the big names were falling like flies in the outback in the build-up to the Australian Open yesterday. Lleyton Hewitt and Marcos Baghdatis were among the on-court losers, while Justine Henin-Hardenne and Tim Henman joined what is threatening to become a steady flow of withdrawals from the season's first Grand Slam tournament.

For a while it seemed that Andy Murray would join the ranks of the disappointed. The 19-year-old Scot lost the first four games and the first set of his Qatar Open quarter-final against Max Mirnyi but recovered to win 2-6, 6-2, 6-2. Mirnyi, a 6ft 5in Belarussian nicknamed "the Beast" , made a lightning start, volleying impressively and giving Murray a taste of his own medicine with some cleverly disguised drop shots.

In trying to retrieve one drop shot Murray slipped and appeared to hurt his back. He served conservatively for the rest of the first set, but came out fighting in the second, breaking serve three times before levelling the match with a thumping backhand crosscourt winner. Once Murray had broken serve in the fourth game of the final set the outcome was rarely in doubt. The world No 17 now plays Nikolai Davydenko, the top seed, who won two matches yesterday. They last met in the fourth round of the US Open in September, the Russian winning in four sets.

However, it was not all good news for Murray. Late last night, partnered by his brother Jamie, the British No 1 suffered his only defeat in five matches in Doha this week when the duo lost in straight sets to Mikhail Youzhny and Nenad Zimonjic in the semi-finals of the doubles.

In the other singles semi-final today Ivan Ljubicic meets Robin Soderling, who sprang one of the surprises of the tournament by knocking out Baghdatis, last year's beaten finalist in the Australian Open.

Hewitt suffered a similar fate, making an unexpectedly early exit from his warm-up tournament. The Australian No 1 was knocked out of the Adelaide International by Russia's Igor Kunitsyn, the world No 94.

Yesterday's latest withdrawals from the Australian Open will have strengthened the arguments of those who say the year's first Grand Slam tournament comes too early in the year.

The short close season is being blamed for the growing number of absentees, with players having too little time to recover from injuries. Mark Philippoussis and Mary Pierce have already pulled out and Venus Williams, Anastasia Myskina and David Nalbandian are among those on the doubtful list.

The event's biggest blow was the withdrawal of Henin-Hardenne for " personal family reasons". The world No 1, who lost last year's final to Amélie Mauresmo, did not expand on her reasons, but the Belgian media reported that she was splitting up with her husband, Pierre-Yves.

Henman withdrew because of a knee injury, which he first suffered in Basle last October. The problem resurfaced before Christmas and a specialist has advised the former British No 1 to rest. He now expects to make his season's debut in Zagreb at the end of the month.

"It might be another seven to 10 days before I can do some serious training on it, so obviously competing in a Grand Slam is out of the question," Henman said yesterday.

Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own