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Proud Murray relishes proving everyone wrong with one of his best ever wins
The Scot showed he can still mix it – and beat – the world’s best, even with a metal hip
When Andy Murray eventually retires – and hopefully that’s a way off just yet – there will be some matches he looks back on with joy and perhaps others with regret. There will be some he remembers like they were yesterday and others he will have blocked out of his mind.
From his first Grand Slam title, when he won the US Open in 2012, to his first Wimbledon triumph in 2013 and his second in 2016, his Davis Cup victory, two Olympic gold medals and becoming No 1, his career has been littered with glorious moments.
But it is arguable that his win over Matteo Berrettini – a 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (10-6) victory that took four hours, 49 minutes, will find a place pretty high up any top 10 list of Murray moments.
Tight losses were playing on his mind
When Berrettini was fighting back in the third and fourth sets and threatening to pull away in the fifth, it was impossible not to imagine what losing such a match would mean for Murray.
In the four years since he had hip surgery, shortly after the Australian Open in 2019, Murray has not only pushed the boundaries in terms of what can be achieved as a professional with a metal hip; he has also lost several close battles in big tournaments.
Losing another one would surely have left him distraught, not least because he arrived in Melbourne feeling far more encouraged about his game, movement and form, than perhaps at any stage since the surgery. Three weeks of intense training with Ivan Lendl in Florida had put him in great shape and good spirits.
Losing, after the way he had played, might have ruined all that in his mind. Instead, he dug deep to play a brilliant final 10-point tiebreak and clinch one of the more remarkable, satisfying victories of his life.
“I think the last few years, I’ve certainly questioned myself at times,” Murray began. “There’s certainly a lot of people questioned me and my ability, whether I could still perform at the biggest events and the biggest matches.
“I felt very proud of myself after the match. That’s not something that I generally felt over the years at the end of the tennis matches. But I think I’m proud of the work that I put in the last few months. I trained really, really hard over in Florida getting ready to play here. I’m really proud of how I fought through that match at the end, like I said, when it could have got away from me, how I played in the tiebreak at the end.”
Murray impressed with himself, as he should be
Things would have been very different had Berrettini not netted a simple backhand that he could probably make in his sleep, away from the pressure of a Grand Slam match. Murray admitted the tight defeats he has suffered in recent years crossed his mind as the match went to a deciding tiebreak.
“I was impressed with myself,” he said, with a smile, “which again is not something… I’m hard on myself usually. Tonight I need to give myself some credit because the last few years have been tough. I’ve lost a few of those matches, those type of matches, in the slams the last couple years, whether that’s the (Stefanos) Tsitsipas match (at the US Open in 2021) or whatever, (John) Isner at Wimbledon (in 2022). That one could have gone the other way tonight, but I stayed strong and I deserved to win.”
Murray’s tactics were spot-on
As popular as Berrettini is, the crowd was with Murray throughout the final set and when his final return hit the tape and dropped over the net, he must have felt like the tennis gods had finally done him a favour.
Moving brilliantly, it was sometimes easy to forget that Murray has a metal hip. Somewhere his surgeon must be smiling, his improvement incredible. But it was also his aggression, on serve, with the forehand and backhand and general demeanour that was so impressive.
His tactics, too, were perfect, pulling Berrettini forward with short slices, focusing on the backhand, breaking it down. In the first two sets, Berrettini’s forehand was all at sea, too, but when he improved, Murray still stayed with him, taking the attack to him at every turn. Ivan Lendl, famous for never getting out of his seat, nevertheless looked suitably impressed.
Recovery now the absolute key
The question now, of course, is how well Murray can recover in time for his second-round match, a meeting with either Fabio Fognini of Italy or Thanasi Kokkinakis, whose meeting was going late into the evening on Monday, a day that began with intense heat and ended in rain.
“The one thing I’ve definitely got better at recently, probably since I had the kids, I used to always go to bed quite late, but I tend to get myself in bed much, much earlier,” he said, talking of his post-match routine.
“Prioritise my sleep probably a bit more. The process of the recovery; did my ice bath, make sure I get good food in me. I’ll see my physio now once we get back to the hotel. Just try and get an early night.
“But, you know, look, it’s obviously not that easy to recover from a four-hour 45-minute match. But I have put myself in the best chance to be able to do that with the training and stuff that I’ve done the last few months.
“I wouldn’t expect myself to feel perfect on Thursday, but hopefully I’ll be in a good place.”