Andy Murray reminded the tennis world what a master he was on a court by producing a marathon victory over the 13th seeded Matteo Berrettini in their first-round clash at the Australian Open, the first major of the season.
I’ve put a lot of work into the last few months with my team to give me the opportunity to perform on stadiums like this, in matches like this, against players like Matteo, And it paid off tonight. Andy Murray
It was his first victory over a top-20 opponent at a Grand Slam tournament since he underwent surgery and returned to the tour with a metal hip. It was most certainly his best win in recent years. And it was a bit of a roller-coaster!
The former word No.1 built a huge lead and then let it evaporate , even requiring him to save a match point against the Italian who is nine years younger and currently ranked 53 places above him.
But after four-hours and 50-minutes, the Brit secured a second-round place on a fortunate let cord, 6-3 6-3 4-6 6-7(7) 7-6 (10-6).
“The last few years, I’ve certainly questioned myself at times. There’s certainly a lot of people (who) questioned me and my ability, whether I could still perform at the biggest events and the biggest matches,” the 35-year-old Murray, who is now ranked No. 66, said. “I felt very proud of myself after the match. That’s not something that I generally felt over the years at the end of tennis matches.”
It certainly answered those who believe he should have retired and supported his belief that he still had it in him to be at the top ranked players.
“I’ve put a lot of work into the last few months with my team to give me the opportunity to perform on stadiums like this, in matches like this, against players like Matteo,” Murray told a crowd that roared with approval for him. “And it paid off tonight.”
It was certainly a great performance filled with that trademark gutsy ‘never say die’ attitude which took him to three grand slam titles and two singles Olympic gold medals.
Murray is also a five-time runner-up at Melbourne Park, with four losses in the final to Novak Djokovic and one to Roger Federer and joins those two plus Rafa Nadal and Stefan Edberg to become only the fifth player in the Open era to win 50 matches at the Australian Open.
“He’s a great champion. I said it so many times,” Berrettini commented following his defeat. “Personally, was great to play with that atmosphere against him. Just a great match. Unfortunately, it didn’t go my way.”
There were plenty of moments when Murray played as he did a long time ago, diving to hit a volley before slamming to the blue court — scraping his right leg — or sprinting to somehow reach seemingly unreachable shots, then looking up into the stands at Lendl and shaking a fist while yelling, “Let’s go! Come on now!”
Murray raced through the first two sets in less than 90-minutes before the big-hitting, big-serving Italian turned things around and took the match to a fifth, even coming within one point of victory at 5-4 in that set but faltering with an easy backhand facing an open court.
The match was played under a closed roof on the Rod Laver Arena as temperatures soared into the mid-thirties centigrade forcing suspension of play on the outdoors courts that lasted some three hours.
And if that wasn’t enough, rain later also brought some disruption.
Dan Evans was amongst those players who had to take a break from the heat and he spent his time watching clips of Roy Keane, the former Manchester United footballer.
The British No. 2 was leading by two sets to one against Argentina’s Facundo Bagnis when play was suspended.
The lengthy three-hour break did not knock Evans off course as he won 6-4 4-6 6-4 6-4 and spoke afterwards about using his free time to watch Keane’s appearance on an Irish chat show.
“During the break I had a bit of food, I showered, stretched out and then I had a lie down. I actually watched Roy Keane on that Tiernan show,” he revealed.
Evans, who next faces veteran Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, finished his match before torrential rain stopped play again on the outside courts.
Unlike many players, Evans didn’t wear a cap in sunny conditions.
“I just never wear one,” he said. “The heat doesn’t bother me. I have just never worn a hat and I have never liked wearing one. Doesn’t feel comfortable. Big ears, I guess.
“But I felt the break didn’t really come at a good time for me. I had won the third set. I felt like he was struggling. He was going to the towel a lot at the back of the court a lot. And then I had to start again.
“It’s strange because I never even knew about the rule, to be honest. I just knew it was hot. Once the wind stopped it was horrible.
“I came back from the toilet, and then the guy said: ‘You’re going in’. I didn’t feel great going back out but then I actually played very well.”
Later, reflecting on Murray’s win he added: “I think the amazing thing is he didn’t cramp. He obviously had troubles with the cramping and I think he will be happy that he did his pre-season and he got everything right. I mean, he always obviously does, leaves no stone unturned.
“The thing with the cramping…he spoke a bit about the nutrition and then the work, so he obviously addressed that, and no bigger test than playing Berrettini.”
Murray faces either Thanasi Kokkinakis or Fabio Fognini in the second round the match was suspended with the score in favour of the Aussie at 6-1 6-2 4-2.