A vintage Andy Murray weathered a gallant fightback from Matteo Berrettini before dumping the 13th seeded Italian out of the Australian Open first round with an epic 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (10-6), win on Tuesday.
With the crowd largely in the palm of his hand, the 35-year-old raced out of the blocks to take the first two sets under the roof of a muggy Rod Laver Arena.
A five-time runner-up in the tournament, little has come easy for Murray at Melbourne Park, and so it proved again as Berrettini emerged from a long off-court break between sets dialled-in to level the match.
Murray’s determination never wavered, though, and he held his nerve in the deciding 10-point tiebreak, closing out the match with incredible fortune as his bunted forehand return caught the net and left Berrettini no chance.
“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. I was impressed with myself, which again is not something… I’m hard on myself usually,” Murray said.
“Yeah, tonight I need to give myself some credit because the last few years have been tough. I’ve lost a few of those type of matches in the Slams the last couple years.
“Whether that’s the [Stefanos] Tsitsipas match [at the U.S. Open] or [John] Isner at Wimbledon, that one could have gone the other way tonight, but I stayed strong and I deserved to win.”
Murray credited his form to the work he had put in during the off-season in Florida and reuniting with coach Ivan Lendl, who had helped him win three Grand Slam titles.
“Obviously the past success that we’ve had gives me confidence in the relationship,” Murray said.
“Most of my biggest wins have come whilst Ivan was part of the team. He’s certainly not going to let me get away with not working hard. He’s always going to push me as hard as he can to try and get the best out of me.”
Murray will play the winner of Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis and Italian veteran Fabio Fognini for a place in the third round.
British No. 2 Dan Evans also progressed in Melbourne after beating Argentina’s Facundo Bagnis.
Twenty-fifth seed Evans, won 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, in a first-round match that was delayed for three hours because of extreme heat.
Evans was also impressed with Murray’s victory and was amazed that his fellow Briton did not cramp up.
“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,” Evans said.
“He spoke a bit…