Murray tops Berrettini in Aussie Open 1st round marathon

By Lobsang DS Subirana

Melbourne, Australia, Jan 17 (EFE).- Last year’s Australian Open semi-finalist Matteo Berrettini lost to five-time finalist Andy Murray in the tournament’s first round, following a match resolved with a fifth-set tiebreak that lasted almost five hours and ended 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7), 6-7 (6).

The former world No. 1 started strong, taking the first two sets through early breaks and disrupting Berrettini’s powerful service game, conceding only eight aces in that time.

Murray’s return game and cross-court backhand proved a nuisance to the Italian, who struggled to read the Scotsman’s variety of shots and made a slew of early unforced errors.

He broke Berrettini once more in the second set to assert his dominance and looked on course for an easy win over his underperforming rival.

But the Italian managed to raise his game at the end of a third set in which he grafted to make it 4-4, starting strong and holding serve until he broke Murray almost against the run of play to narrow the lead. It coincided with Berrettini improving his first serve wins, hitting six aces despite his accuracy dropping, and compounding his unforced error count.

Honors remained even throughout the fourth set, as both players pushed each other to the edge, the Italian with a renewed confidence, to make it 6-6. Berrettini’s by-then infallible serve and a misfiring Murray helped him eke out a 9-7 win to go the distance.

The last set arguably produced some of the match’s best tennis, with both players raising their level along with the stakes. A slew of unforced errors by the Briton left him against the ropes at 5-4, struggling to hold serve and giving his opponent a match point.

But the Italian missed a routine backhand at the net, bringing the score back to deuce before Murray leveled the scores at 5-5. Two games later, it was a fourth set repeat, with a 10-point tiebreak to settle the match.

Murray raced to an impressive 5-1 lead, with Berrettini’s serve letting him down at the most crucial point. He fought back, threatening to level the scores as he served at 6-9, but the Scotsman’s return brushed the top of the net and the Italian, seeded 13th, came out unlucky as the ball trickled over and abruptly stopped dead on the other side.

Murray will next face either Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis or Berrettini’s compatriot Fabio Fognini. EFE


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