Andy Murray rolls back the years to clinch five-set marathon in Australian Open

Former world No 1 defeats Italy's Matteo Berrettini for first win over top-20 opponent at Grand Slam since 2017

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Andy Murray was made to fight tooth and nail in oppressive weather as he defeated Italy's Matteo Berrettini in the Australian Open first round following an epic 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-7, 7-6 triumph on Tuesday.

The three-time major champion blew a big early lead, then needed to save a match point and wound up eliminating the 13th seed – the first time Murray had beaten a top-20 opponent at a Grand Slam since 2017.

The match was played under a closed roof at Rod Laver Arena because the tournament’s heat rule was invoked as the temperature soared past 38º Celsius. Murray raced through the first two sets in less than an hour-and-a-half before the big-hitting Berrettini turned things around and took the match to a fifth set.

Murray's determination did not waver, though, and he held his nerve in the deciding 10-point tiebreak, closing out the match with incredible fortune as his bunted forehand return caught the net and left Berrettini no chance.

The match was filled with the sort of grit that defined much of Murray’s time on tour and that carried him to championships at the US Open in 2012 and at Wimbledon in 2013 and 2016 and to two Olympic singles gold medals.

Murray finished 2016 ranked world No 1, but the Scotsman is now 35 years old and ranked No 66.

Still, there were moments on Tuesday when Murray played as he did a long time ago, diving to hit a volley before slamming to the court or racing to somehow reach seemingly unreachable shots, then shaking a fist and yelling, “Let’s go! Come on now!”

While such matches would have usually been contested in later rounds in his heyday, this will surely mean almost as much to Murray four years after the tearful press conference at Melbourne Park that seemed to herald the end of his career.

Murray said: "I'll be feeling this this evening and tomorrow but right now I'm just unbelievably happy and very proud of myself.

"I've put a lot of work into the last three months with my team, to give me the opportunity to perform in stadiums like this and matches like this and it paid off tonight.

"That's the first time I've ever played one of those 10-point tie-breakers and it's a bit different. He came back really strong and I was a bit lucky at the end with the net-cord.

"He was serving unbelievably and he's a brilliant competitor as well, he always fights right to the end. I did well to get through."

Victory also brought up his 50th Australian Open match-win, becoming only the fifth man in the Open era to achieve the feat alongside Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Stefan Edberg.

"I think some of the tennis at the end was really good, it felt like that playing," Murray added.

Updated: January 17, 2023, 8:55 AM