Grand Slam wins may have become less frequent in recent years for Andy Murray, but the Scot still has what it takes to beat the best on the big stage.
“I think the last few years, I’ve certainly questioned myself at times,” admitted former World No. 1 Murray after outlasting Matteo Berrettini at the Australian Open for his first Top 20 victory at a Grand Slam in more than four years. “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.”
Murray defied a stirring Berrettini comeback from two-sets-to-love down on Rod Laver Arena, saving a match point before dominating the deciding-set tie-break to seal a 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-7(7), 7-6(10-6) win. After a series of tough defeats in similarly close encounters at the majors in recent times, the three-time Grand Slam champion believes Tuesday’s victory is just reward for some hard off-season graft.
“I think I’m proud of the work that I put in the last few months,” said Murray, who fell to Berrettini in four sets at the 2022 US Open. “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.
“I was impressed with myself… 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 Tsitsipas match [at the 2021 US Open], Isner at Wimbledon [in 2022]. That one could have gone the other way tonight, but I stayed strong, and I deserved to win.”
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The former World No. 1 Murray went back to basics during a three-week off-season training stint at a country club in Boca Raton, where his coach Ivan Lendl resides. Despite falling to Sebastian Korda in straight sets in his season-opener at the Adelaide International 2, the 35-year-old has faith that he got exactly what he needed from his preparations for the 2023 season.
“[I] just lived a pretty sort of basic life for those weeks,” said Murray. “Get up at the same time most mornings, go grab a coffee, get down to the practice courts, spend two-and-a-half, three hours on the court, have lunch, then head to the gym in the afternoon, or sometimes go back on the court again.
“[I] just had very, very little distractions. I was totally focused on my training and on my tennis, the things I needed to do to get better. It’s something that I’ll definitely look to do at times during the rest of this year to make sure I dedicate enough time to the hard work and improving my game.”
Murray faces a second-round clash Thursday against Fabio Fognini or home favourite Thanasi Kokkinakis at Melbourne Park. It may be a tight turnaround physically for a 35-year-old with a metal hip, but Murray cited his experience as a father to four children as something that will help him get back to his best for his next match.
“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,” said Murray. “Prioritise my sleep probably a bit more, the process of the recovery.
“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.”
Lendl was present in Murray’s box on Tuesday for his epic win, having returned for a third spell with Murray in March 2022. The Scot acknowledged Lendl’s guidance as a key factor in his continued ability to perform, even if he isn’t exactly sure on the secret ingredient the Czech brings.
“I mean, it’s difficult for me to put my finger on it,” said Murray. “I mean, obviously the past success that we’ve had gives me confidence in the relationship. Obviously, 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.
“He obviously understands what it takes to get to the top of the sport. He did it himself as a player. He’s obviously seen it with me whilst he’s been coaching. And, yeah, it’s a relationship that seems to work.”