|Dates: January 16-29 place: Melbourne Park|
|Coverage: Commentary every day from 07:00 GMT on Radio 5 Sports Extra ‘Tennis Breakfast’ live from Melbourne, with selected live text commentary and match reports on the BBC Sport website and app.|
How does Andy Murray manage to amaze us all? He’s a 35-year-old with a metal hip, for God’s sake.
Even Murray looked like he couldn’t believe what he had done, puffing out his cheeks after he did thrilling victory in five sets over Italian 13th seed Matteo Berrettini at the Australian Open on Tuesday.
He spent almost five hours on court, saving a match point at 5-4 in the deciding set before winning the tie-break 10-6.
Some of Murray’s fellow players were glued to their screens watching Britain’s three-time Grand Slam champion in an old performance for which legendary sports stars and mesmerized fans on social media could only find two words: Andy Murray.
The magic moments continue to appear for the former world number one – even after a hip operation from which no other player has come back.
Many wrote him off. Sam Murray almost did.
When the Scot burst into tears at Melbourne Park ahead of the 2019 tournament, it was because he thought hip replacement surgery – where the head of the femur is covered with a metal cap – would spell the end of his career.
The way back was long and tiring. There have been setbacks – particularly recent Grand Slam losses – that have made him wonder if all the hard work has paid off.
So it was fitting that the latest thrilling highlight of his rollercoaster ride returned to Melbourne.
Murray, a sharp self-critic, even allowed himself a pat on the back.
“Over the last few years I’ve sometimes questioned myself. There are certainly a lot of people [who have] He questioned me and my abilities, whether I can still perform at the biggest events and the biggest matches,” he said.
“I felt very proud of myself after the game. It’s not something I’ve generally felt over the years at the end of games.
“I’m really proud of how I lasted that match when it could have gotten away from me, how I played in the tie-break at the end.
“I was impressed with myself, which again is not something I do very often. I’m usually hard on myself.”
‘You can see a gladiator in him’
Against Berrettini, Murray showed all the qualities that have endeared him to many over the years.
Fight. Determination. Militancy.
It sounds almost banal to repeat the same adjectives. But those characteristics – and his never-say-die attitude – were again there for everyone.
One example came when Murray – he has a metal hip, remember – jumped on a volley in a fourth-set tie-break that would have leveled the match point.
It only floated for a long time and led to a loud sigh, part excitement and part concern.
Even Tim Henman, another British great, asked him what everyone was thinking: should a man of Murray’s age, with a metal side, really be doing this?
“I’ll probably find out tonight or tomorrow if it was the right move,” Murray laughed during an interview on Eurosport.
“But I was so close to the goal there that I probably should have hit the volley.”
Novak Djokovic, a 21-time major champion who has known Murray since they were 12-year-olds playing in junior competitions, had his eyes glued to the television screen in the locker room and looked almost in disbelief at what he was seeing.
Dan Evans, a British Davis Cup teammate, experienced the emotions of the superfans. The super fan stretched out on a gym ball after finishing the match a little while ago.
Their reactions echoed those inside Rod Laver Arena as Murray produced shots and points that few thought he could still pull off.
Coco Vandeweghe, a two-time Grand Slam singles semi-finalist watching BBC Radio 5 live, said people just “can’t not watch Murray”.
“You see the gladiator in him — the blood from his knee, the sweat, the limp around,” she said.
How will Murray recover now?
Murray’s longevity depends on the “professionalism” he puts into “every aspect of his day”, says former British number one Annabel Croft.
“He never gives up. What he really wants is to play like that in a Grand Slam match, against a big name. It’s a big moment,” the BBC Radio 5 Live analyst said.
“What will be interesting now is how he retires tomorrow. The team will spend a lot of time on his body before his second round match.”
Work to ensure he will be ready to face either Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis or Italian veteran Fabio Fognini on Thursday continued on Tuesday night.
After his customary post-match ice bath, Murray ate well and planned more physiotherapy at his hotel.
Most importantly, he will try to sleep early – one of the key changes he has made in recent years.
“One thing that’s definitely better for me, probably since I had kids, I’ve always gone to bed late,” he said.
“Now I tend to go to bed much, much earlier – I prioritize my sleep and recovery process a bit more.
“I wouldn’t expect to feel perfect on Thursday, but hopefully I’ll be in a good place.”
‘Crazy respect for big lungs’
Murray’s latest outstanding performance has elicited stunned reactions from fellow players, prominent footballers and journalists…
…and fans use #bbctennis to express their admiration.
Andy Moore: Sir Andy Murray – amazing performance! To do what he’s doing after the injury he had is just remarkable. He may not be the same player he was, but never lose that desire and hard work!
Matthew Drewett: Andy Murray, you are superhuman.
Steve Kilner: He’s got a metal hip and just played almost five hours of tennis, against top 20 opponents, winning 29 games, including a tiebreaker… silly, funny, brilliant, sublime. There is only one Andy Murray.
Saadia: Take a bow Andy Murray. Great respect. Well done champion.