Australian Open: 'It would have been so easy to stop playing' – Murray reflects on unlikely Melbourne return

By Sports Desk January 19, 2022

Andy Murray knows it would have been easy to retire from tennis after his hip surgery but is instead revelling at being able to compete at the Australian Open once again.

Former world number one Murray is featuring in the season's first grand slam for the first time in three years.

In true Murray fashion, he overcame Georgian 21st-seed Nikoloz Basilashvili in five sets in a mammoth first-round tie to set up a clash with Japan's Taro Daniel on Thursday.

That Murray is here at all is remarkable given the scenes in 2019 when the now 34-year-old gave an emotional news conference following a first-round defeat to Roberto Bautista Agut questioning whether he would be able to continue playing.

Speaking about his Melbourne return, Murray told BBC Sport: "To be finally back at the Australian Open again this year, playing on the same court as 2019 and then beating Basilashvili in five sets, was a brilliant experience.

"In 2019 it didn't feel like it was me out there on the court. I was severely hampered physically and had little to no preparation. I didn't know if I was going to be able to play again.

"After the hip surgery, and loads of stops and starts with more niggles, playing in grand slams again is a place which I have worked so hard to get to.

"It would have been easy to stop playing, but I kept trying and trying. I'm proud of that work and effort."

Murray was unable to compete in Melbourne in 2021 after testing positive for COVID-19.

"There was another setback last year when I couldn't come to Australia because I tested positive for coronavirus shortly before I was supposed to fly out," he continued.

"That was brutal for me. I had trained really hard through the end of November and December, I was playing really well. I had played lots of practice, I felt really fit and then that positive test happened. I was gutted.

"I was healthy, I'd just had the virus and recovered from it. I understood the rules and situation here in Melbourne but I just wished I would have been able to play."

Murray reached the final of the Sydney Classic earlier in January, eventually going down to Alan Karatsev 6-3 6-3. It was just the second ATP Tour-level final he has reached since the start of 2019.

Now, the three-time major winner is hoping to push on after that morale-boosting success over Basilashvili.

"Beating Basilashvili was a big win for me," Murray added. "A lot of work has gone into getting back to this tournament and to physically compete at the highest level, so beating a guy ranked in the top 25 and winning a match in five sets was very satisfying.

"I'm probably never going to move as well as I did as I did when I was 25.

"But the more matches I play, staying healthy for a long period of time and not missing lots of training, means I am going to continue to improve my movement. Then, my physicality on the court will get better."

Related items

  • Zverev struggles with grass-court transition but overcomes Otte at Halle Open Zverev struggles with grass-court transition but overcomes Otte at Halle Open

    Alexander Zverev avoided a first-round upset at the Halle Open after battling past fellow German Oscar Otte on Tuesday.

    The second seed managed to triumph in his first match since the French Open final defeat to Carlos Alcaraz, eventually winning 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-4.

    Zverev has twice reached the show-piece at this event, in 2016 and 2017, though acknowledged challenges remain with adapting from the clay-court surfaces at Roland-Garros.

    "A week ago, I was playing on clay still basically," Zverev said in his on-court interview. "He made it very tough for me, no rhythm at all.

    "That's how grass-court tennis is sometimes and I'm just happy with the win.

    "He did make it extremely difficult for me, so credit to him. I'm obviously happy that I won and hopefully, it's going to be a level above in the next match."

    The world number four is now 35-10 for the season and will look to extend that record when he meets Italy's Lorenzo Sonego in the next round.

    Zverev has won all three head-to-head meetings with Sonego, and will fancy his chances if he delivers another heavy-hitting performance next time out.

    The 27-year-old smashed 54 winners, compared to his 40 unforced errors, to triumph in just over two hours under the OWL Arena roof.

    Stefanos Tsitsipas also began his grass season with victory, defeating home hopeful Henri Squire 7-6 (9-7) 7-6 (7-2).

    The Greek sixth seed will face Luciano Darderi or Jan-Lennard Struff in the second round.

  • Murray celebrates 1,000th ATP match with Queen's triumph over Popyrin Murray celebrates 1,000th ATP match with Queen's triumph over Popyrin

    Andy Murray celebrated his 1,000th match on the ATP Tour with a battling victory over Alexei Popyrin at the Queen's Club Championships on Tuesday.

    The 37-year-old became the fifth active male player to hit quadruple figures for tour-level matches, marking the milestone with a 6-3 3-6 6-3 victory to snap a four-match losing streak.

    Murray holds the record for Queen's titles with five and will look to go deep in this tournament once more when he meets Australia's Jordan Thompson in the second round.

    The two-time Wimbledon champion acknowledged the struggles of his lengthy career after this first-round triumph, though suggested he did not know about the landmark moment until just before play.

    "I didn't realise, but my mum told me before the match that this was my 1000th match on the tour," Murray said in his on-court interview.

    "A lot of matches and a lot of wear and tear in the body and it is not easy but I managed to push through."

    Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Fernando Verdasco and Richard Gasquet are the other active men's players to hit the 1,000-match mark.

    That longevity has served well for Murray, who won his first match at the tournament in 2005 and holds a 32-9 record at the ATP 500 grass-court event since.

    "During the match, it is difficult but great reward at the end for the hard work and effort I put into the match," Murray added.

    "I have not got too many wins this year, it has been a difficult season but did well to come through in the end. Held quite a few tight service games and managed to serve it out well."

    Alex de Minaur overcame Murray at Queen's last year en route to the final before losing out to Carlos Alcaraz, who also secured the Wimbledon title after.

    Yet De Minaur will not have the chance to make the showpiece of the Wimbledon warm-up this time around, after losing out to Lorenzo Musetti.

    The Italian swept the second seed aside with a 1-6 6-4 6-2 victory, teeing up a second-round meeting with Brandon Nakashima.

  • Osaka beaten by inspired Zheng serving display at Berlin Open Osaka beaten by inspired Zheng serving display at Berlin Open

    Naomi Osaka bowed out of the Berlin Open after falling short in a three-set thriller against an inspired serving display from Zheng Qinwen.

    The former world number one battled, but ultimately came up short for the second time in two weeks, enduring a 6-4 3-6 6-3 defeat. 

    The Japanese found herself a set down following a break point claimed in the fifth game by her opponent but rallied in the second to take the encounter to a deciding set. 

    However, Zheng, who served 10 aces in the final set, proved too powerful for Osaka to secure a second victory over the Japanese after two hours and 10 minutes at the Steffi Graf Stadium.

    Zheng will play Katerina Siniakova in the last 16 on Wednesday, with either Jessica Pegula or Donna Vekic awaiting should she progress. 

    Data Debrief: Acing it

    The victory for Zheng saw her serve 23 aces against Osaka, the highest tally in a single WTA match since Rebecca Marino vs Caroline Garcia in Guadalajara in 2022 (24).

    Her success with her serving saw Zheng win 88 per cent of her first serve points, winning 44 of 50 during the match. 

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.