Andy Murray in the first round of the 2023 Australian Open, Melbourne
Andy Murray in the first round of the 2023 Australian Open, Melbourne | (Photo by Andy Cheung/Getty Images)

Tennis | Australian Open 2023 | Murray survives five hour epic against Berrettini, takes on home favourite Kokkinakis next

By Tony Fairbairn

  • Andy Murray def Matteo Berrettini [13] 6-3 6-3 4-6 6-7(7) 7-6(6)
  • Murray v Thanasi Kokkinakis | H2H: Murray leads 1-0

 

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Andy Murray battled past Matteo Berrettini in a last set tiebreak to reach the second round of the Australian Open where he will face Thanasi Kokkinakis.

 

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Andy Murray def Matteo Berrettini [13] 6-3 6-3 4-6 6-7(7) 7-6(6)

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Andy Murray is into the second round after surviving a near five hour contest with Matteo Berrettini by winning a fifth set tiebreak. Murray made the best possible start to the match as he took advantage of some tactical errors from the Italian to break for a 2-0 lead. The Brit knew from their match at the US Open that he couldn’t afford a slow start here and that’s exactly what he avoided, playing some clean tennis on return.

The five-time finalist fought well on serve to deny Berrettini any looks on his serve as some accurate serving ensured that he kept on holding serve. Some effective patterns of play saw Murray save a couple of break points in the sixth seventh game and a forehand passing shot saw the Brit take a 5-2 lead. A vintage opening set display was sealed with an ace as he held to love to take the opening set 6-3.

The former world number one continued to roll back the years in the second set as another backhand passing shot sealed the break in the opening game. This was an assured and confident performance from Murray as the Italian had next to no opportunities to even break Murray, who was serving the best he’s served over the last year.

After surviving a tough service game in the eighth game, Murray broke for the set with an incredible drop shot as the Brit was on the cusp of the one of the biggest victories since his comeback to tennis.

However no Murray landmark victory would be without a five set rollercoaster match and that’s exactly what would happen as Berrettini started to click into gear in the next two sets. Both players had their serves tested in the opening stages of the match with a break point each being saved.

In the fifth game though it was Berrettini who struck first as the errors came from Murray’s racket and the Italian started the forehand aggression. That was all the Italian needed as he fired the big serve down with authority as he sealed the second set 6-4 as momentum was firmly on his side.

The fourth set saw both players producing their best serving performance of the match with Berrettini firing winners consistently off forehand and backhand. Meanwhile Murray continued his sharp movement and fitness to neutralise the rallies as well as forcing Berrettini into uncomfortable positions on the court. Both players went blow for blow like two boxers as they traded holds of serve with a tiebreak the only way to settle this nerve-wracking fourth set.

On multiple occasions Murray was two points away from the match but those opportunities were denied by Berrettini’s raw power from the baseline. After a long and dramatic tiebreak it was Berrettini who ramped up the pressure the most when it mattered the most as he edged the tiebreak 9-7 and forced a fifth set.

The fifth set was all about mental strength with so much on the line for both players yet neither player seemed affected by the pressure of the final set. Both players started the final set with authority and serving consistency as the games continued to fly by. The only real opportunity was in the tenth game when Berrettini had match point in one of the most dramatic moments in the contest. A poorly-executed drop shot was followed by an even worse backhand by the Italian as Murray would save match point and hold for 5-5.

This fifth set stalemate resulted in a tiebreak which saw Murray take an early 5-1 lead and never looked back as he secured one of the best victories over the last year as well as book his place in the second round.

After the match Murray explained that he’s questioned himself several times over the last year but is pleased with the victory, “I think the last few years, I’ve certainly questioned myself at times,” Murray told the ATP website.

“There’s certainly a lot of people [that] 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 tennis matches. 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 tie-break at the end.”

 

Andy Murray v Thanasi Kokkinakis H2H & Match Fundamentals

Andy Murray v Thanasi Kokkinakis H2H: Murray leads 1-0
Australian Open 2023 Melbourne, Australia
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Murray now faces home favourite Thanasi Kokkinakis for a place in the third round.

 

Tale of the Tape – Key Stats (Last 12 months)

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H2H: Andy Murray (WR 66) Thanasi Kokkinakis (WR 159)
Tournament Previous Best Final (2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016) R2 (2014, 2015, 2021)
1st Serve % 60.1 63.2
Service Games Won % 80.4 85.6
Break Points Saved % 59.4 65.2
2nd Serve Return Points Won % 54.8 46.3
Break Points Converted % 40.4 32.4

Murray will hope to take advantage of Kokkinakis’ poor break point conversion rate while the Australian will look to dominate on serve.

 

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Playing styles and prediction

Kokkinakis loves playing in Australia and has been motivated since winning Adelaide and the Australian Open doubles title with Nick Kyrgios last year. A win over Andrey Rublev last week will just add to that confidence as the Australian now looks to reach the third round at his home Grand Slam for the first time in his career.

Murray will look to create as many angles as possible as well as targeting Kokkinakis’ backhand as he looks to be aggressive in the shorter rallies. Meanwhile Kokkinakis will look to make a high percentage of first serves and test the Brit’s stamina and court coverage with his fearless forehand. This will be a test of Murray’s conditioning and consistency but Murray should prevail in another dramatic and long contest.

Prediction: Murray in five sets.

 

 

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