The three-time Grand Slam winner looked leggy and distracted for large spells but summoned all his will power and know-how against an inspired Otte, drawing on the energy of a pulsating Centre Court crowd to add another chapter to his catalogue of epics at the All England Club.
Otte’s powerful serve proved tricky for Murray to pick up initially, but in a fifth game briefly interrupted by cheers of ‘It’s Coming Home’, the 34-year-old broke the German at the fourth time of asking before seeing out the opening set with relative ease.
Murray broke again early in the second set and everything seemed to be rather comfortable for the two-time Wimbledon champion at this point, but nothing is ever simple with the Scot and in the very next game he was broken.
Late bloomer Otte was starting to cause problems and Murray was giving him plenty of openings, with the qualifier punishing his far more experienced opponent; after holding his serve he broke again, winning three games on the bounce.
Murray was now cutting a frustrated figure on Centre Court, talking angrily to his box, and Otte – who was beginning to play some superb, aggressive tennis – did not have too many issues as he served out the set to level the scores in the match.
The German offered Murray opportunities to retake control in the third set – there was an easy volley into the net and a double fault – but it was the lacklustre Scot who blinked first, broken in his fourth service game amid yells of exasperation and constant muttering to his box.
There was more drama as Otte looked to serve out the third set, with a line judge falling ill to delay play. But it was Murray who was left feeling sick as he forfeited the lead and would now have to go the full five sets to progress to the next round.
The fourth set continued in much the same vein. Murray went 40-0 up only to be taken to deuce, though did at least hold serve this time. In the next game he suffered a nasty slip, holding his left groin afterwards, though he did not seem to suffer any long-lasting injury in the fall.
As darkness fell, a break in play to allow for the roof to be closed gave Murray time to regroup and he was immediately presented with three break points, capitalising on the second to produce the loudest roar Centre Court has heard in two long years.
A few minutes later it was greeted by the loudest groan, as his serve let him down yet again and he was broken when serving for the set. But now it was Otte’s turn to crumble, with a third consecutive break of serve bringing every spectator in the stadium to their feet as Murray roared with delight.
He followed that up with an early break in the fifth set, now pumping up the crowd like the teenager that stunned Andy Roddick all those years ago. The next game was a microcosm of the match as a whole, Murray missing an easy volley at the net to take the game to deuce and in a tense and nerve-jangling series of exchanges the Scot eventually escaped with a vital hold of serve.
Seeing out the win was never going to be easy and Otte forced Murray to work for every single point. There were some magical shots – one to win the seventh game will live long in the memory – tight Hawkeye calls, tense rallies and then, finally, a stunning lob to seal the win.
There were flashes of vintage Murray across the near four hours he spent on court: the good, the bad and the ugly. The late-evening drama, explosions of frustration, never-say-die attitude and moments of brilliance all reminding fans how much he has been missed during his long injury absence.
But having also wobbled against Nikoloz Basilashvili in the first round, it is clear he will need to raise his game and energy levels considerably to continue to thrill the Centre Court crowd over the next fortnight.
How did the rest of the Brits fare on day three?
Murray may have had an evening to forget on the third day of action at SW19, but British number one Dan Evans enjoyed a very straight-forward victory over Dusan Lajovic and is yet to drop a set after his first two matches.
Rain delayed the in-form Cam Norrie’s start to the tournament but he is through to the second round after seeing off Lucas Pouille and will now take on Australian Alex Bolt. Teenager Emma Raducanu also pulled off an excellent win on debut against Vitalia Diatchenko.
Despite a fine showing against second seed Aryna Sabalenka, wildcard Katie Boulter could not quite pull off an upset that would have seen her progress to the third round, losing 6-4 3-6 3-6.
Likewise, Liam Broady took the first set against ninth seed Diego Schwartzman but was blown away after that, only winning seven more games in the entire match, while Samantha Murray Sharan lost to Sorana Cirstea in straight sets.
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