Andy Murray provided a red-hot performance in over-like conditions to advance to the second round of the Australian Open 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-7(7), 7-6 (10-6) over Matteo Berrettini.
The Scot spent just short of five hours on court on a heatwave day at the Open, when play was shut down for two and a half hours on outside courts as temperatures rose past 37 Celsius.
Murray’s match went ahead in the enclosed Laver arena and provided the bulk of the day’s drama.
The three-time Grand Slam winner bolted ahead as he climbed the first two sets only to see his 2021 Wimbledon finalist opponent level at a set apiece.
The 35-year-old squeaked out the final set, played in the first-to-10 tiebreak format now in use at the majors.
Victory ended a four-match losing run in the series with the powerful Italian.
“I will feel this tonight and tomorrow,” the former No. 1 said. “But I’m unbelievably happy and proud of myself right now.
“”Ive out in a lot of work over the last few months with my team and it’s paying off.
“It gives me the opportunity to perform in matches like this.”
Murray is now 159-1 when up two sets to love. Berrettini missed out on his second comeback from two sets to love down after his first at Wimbledon five years ago.
2022 Melbourne semi-finalist Berrettini will drop form the Top 20 as a result of his defeat and becomes the third Italian behind Jannik Sinner and Lorenzo Musetti.
Andrey Rublev handed 2020 tournament finalist Dominic Thiem a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 defeat as the Austrian continues his comeback after 18 months of injury.
The former No. 3 suffered a first-round loss in his third straight Grand Slam, with Rublev going through to the second round in just over two hours.
The win came in the draining 36 Celsius heat of a Melbourne summer day.
Thiem took a medical timeout while leading 3-2 in the second set, going off court with the trainer for treatment on a rib problem.
Rublev was almost apologetic in victory.
“Playing Domi is never easy, we are very good friends and he is going through a not easy time,” the six-time quarter-finalist at the majors said..
“I hope he comes back to his rightful level as fast as possible.
“It was super hot today, I’m glad to win in three sets and save some energy for the next match.
“The heat can affect your decision (on court) and you feel exhausted faster. But then you remember that the other guy is in the same position.”
The 98th-ranked Thiem shrugged off disappointment as he keeps faith in his slow climb back up the rankings.
“This (injury) thing came up with abdominals or ribs, and after that serve was tough.
“The ribs are fine, it’s just a little inflammation or a little strain. It’s obviously not the best timing in the middle of the second set..
“Against an opponent like Andrey it’s going to be really difficult to end the match successfully.”
Thee 29-year-old Austrian who own the US Open in 2020 and played two Roland Garros finals against Rafael Nadal added:
“The beginning (of his comeback early last season) was way tougher than I expected. I was also playing way worse than I was expecting, so it was a
tough way back.
“But things changed towards autumn, towards the last tournaments of the year (two semi-finals).
“My ultimate goal is to come back to a level where I can believe that I can beat a top 5 seed in a Slam again.”
Eighth-seeded American Taylor Fritz sent down a career-high 32 aces as he accelerated past Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5.
Alexander Zverev, playing his second event since snapping seven ligaments in a fall at Roland Garros in the spring, struggled to a satisfying 4-6, 6-1, 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-4 win over Peruvian Juan Pablo Varillas, his first since May 31 last year.
2017 semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov produced a 7-6(3), 7-5, 6-2 defeat of Aslan Karatsev after more than two hours of battle in the heat; he next faces Serb Laslo Djere, who defeated Belgian qualifier Zizou Bergs 6-4, 1-6, 6-4, 6-1.