His right knee bloody from a savage effort. With seized muscles. Sweating profusely under the retractable roof of a Rod Laver Arena sealed by the extreme heat rule (exceeded 37°). Breathing agitated and already without fuel in the body. Difficulty even smiling. Even with a metal hip replacement. But radiant, driven by the love of tennis and by his competitive spirit. Andy Murray, the Scottish gentleman, one of the fantastic four until injuries stopped him, he pulled off his biggest win in years and wowed everyone on the second day of the australian open. In the first round, he saved a match point against Matteo Berrettini (who is almost a decade younger and 50 places above him in the ranking) before prevailing 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6- 7 (7-9) and 7-6 (10-6), in an epic function that lasted for almost five hours.
It was worth trying, Murray thought aloud, remembering dark times and appreciating the strong preseason held a few months ago in Boca Raton (USA). “There were times when I couldn’t put my own shoes on. because my hip hurt a lot and I really thought I would have to retire”, the British confessed to LA NACION in June 2021. In January 2018 he underwent a first hip surgery. A year later, he returned to an operating room and underwent a reconstruction of the area, in which a joint was removed and replaced with an implant. He sought quality of life rather than sports rehabilitation. However, little by little he overcame the demons and his own expectations. Strategic master and currently number 66 in the world, he again defeated a Top 20 for the first time since Roland Garros 2017, long before receiving the first operation and thinking about retiring, as he announced -in tears- at the Australian Open 2019.
January 2019: second hip surgery
“In recent years I have questioned myself. Many people have questioned my ability, if I could continue to perform in the big events and in the important games, ”said Murray, 35. “And I want to say that I feel very proud of myself after the game. That’s not something that normally over the years I’ve felt at the end of tennis matches.”, added Andy, the man who had to deal with the demands of the sports public in the United Kingdom. History today says that he emerged as the first British Wimbledon champion in 77 years (in 2013; he repeated in 2016), since Fred Perry did it in 1936, but before achieving it he suffered suffocating pressures. What’s more, before winning his first Grand Slam, at the 2012 US Open, Murray lost four tournament finals. majors and contemptuously they treated him as a Scotsman if he lost and as a Britisher if he won. In the midst of a stifling climate, he incorporated a legend like Ivan Lendl to his team, who before being a tennis hero went through similar circumstances. The former number 1, who today also guides him in Melbourne, was largely responsible for Murray’s emotional turnaround.
“What a warrior, my friend! Thank you for showing us that you never gave up!” Juan Martín del Potro wrote to Murray on Twitter. The man from Tandil knows, like no one else, suffering from injuries, which is why he is attentive and values what the British achieve. “I’m hard on myself usually. But tonight I need to give myself some credit because the last few years have been difficult. I’ve lost a few of this guy at Grand Slams, either to (Stefanos) Tsitsipas [en la 1ª ronda del US Open 2021, en cinco sets] or with (John) Isner at Wimbledon [2020, en cuatro parciales]. This match could have gone the other way, it’s true, but I stayed strong and deserved to win”, celebrated the holder of 46 trophies [el último en Amberes 2019].
Under the spotlight of the main stadium of the Australian Open (the match was played at the moment when the action on the outer courts was halted by the sweltering temperature; for a handful of hours there was only tennis on the indoor courts), Murray returned to being a chess player with a racket for the first two sets. He had fun and taught Romano Berrettini, 14th and semi-finalist in Melbourne last year, a lesson. He moved wisely, defusing Berrettini’s white-gloved drive, used all the geometry of the court, excelled with spin and dunked on the Italian’s most vulnerable shot (the backhand).
But Berrettini, world number 6 in January last year, made his way in the third set with his laser beam serves, making fewer unforced errors and punishing with his forehand, one of the most powerful on tour. In the fourth set, the level of the match reached glory: exchanges of all kinds were seen and they resembled two boxers in the middle of a fervent ring. In the fifth set, Murray made mistakes and Berretini had a match point against the Scotsman’s service, however, he did not take advantage of it and they reached the super tie-break (ten points). In the tiebreaker, Murray had the fortune that had not been with him during these last years of difficulties and won a cinematic match (his next opponent will be the Italian Fabio Fognini or the Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis).
Murray, a five-time Australian finalist (in 2010 he fell to Roger Federer; in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016 to Novak Djokovic), against Berrettini he reached his 50th victory at Melbourne Park. Only four players in history have that number of successes or more in the first major of the year (Federer, Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Stefan Edberg). The Dunblane-born player’s tennis was reborn from the gloom and lovers of the art of rackets are grateful to enjoy one of the best representatives of the old guard.
“Where do I get the strength not to give up?” Murray heard from THE NATION, a few years ago. “You find the strength to keep going because you love the game. That’s my motivation and I think there’s always the feeling that you’re not ready to give up yet.”