“It’s fantastic, fantastic. But I also want to sleep…”.
It is 4:15 in the morning in Melbourne and the Scotsman Andy Murray, a challenge to logic and a winner against Thanasi Kokkinakis, reflects before the journalists in the mixed zone that the ATP Communication department has improvised in one of the galleries of the Margaret Court track for the hero of the day, or rather of the night, to express himself. Ten minutes earlier, at 4.05, the 35-year-old tennis player from Dunblane signed one of those comebacks (4-7, 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-3 and 7-5) that leave a mark forever; not so much because of the level of tennis as because of the background. In an evening that apparently shouldn’t have any major significance, Australia cheers on an everlasting guerrilla. Immortal, sportingly speaking.
Murray, the boy who survived the biggest child massacre in UK history, the intruder who dared to dispute the three-way hegemony of Nadal, Federer and Djokovic, is a kind of superman. Despite undergoing surgery twice and playing with a titanium hip; despite having announced four years ago that he couldn’t take it anymore, that the pain was too heavy and that the trip had to end now; Despite the experts who predict that at one time or another the structure that holds his waist may break (literally); despite the fact that the best times have passed and he is not even among the 50 best in the ranking. Despite everything, the British is already one of the characters of this Australian Open, regardless of what happens in the third round or in which season he finds the limit. Maybe Roberto Bautista will mark it on Saturday. But it doesn’t matter. Murray was, is and will be Murray. Living history of the sport of him.
“It’s the longest game I’ve ever played. [5h 45m]. By far, the most extensive… The conditions, that is what has happened ”, he qualifies. “It’s cold, playing at this time and with balls like these… The points were going to be long,” continued the Scotsman, who not long ago tried to rejoin the circuit by testing himself in challengers and that in 2019, given that his hip seemed hopeless, he said goodbye to tennis in a duel precisely with Bautista, also in Melbourne. Crying, emotion, hugs, a heartfelt video of colleagues. It was his goodbye, but she was too keen on him. So Murray, the Sir, fought with everything, continued to deny all those theories that said that he would not last more than three or four games and returned.
He is no longer the tennis player who reached the top, the one who won three majors, Olympic metals, the Davis Cup and various distinctions. However, he retains all the aroma and is still able to continue leaving notches. The latter is recorded as the second longest match in the history of the tournament –behind the final between Nadal and Djokovic in 2012, resolved after 5h 53m– and the third latest in history –exceeded only by the late nights starring Alexander Zverev and Jenson Brooksby last year in Acapulco, sealed at 4.54, and Lleyton Hewitt-Marcos Baghdatis at the 2008 Australian Open, concluded at 4.34–.
The king of great comebacks
It is Murray, the proud Scotsman who voted for the independence of his country in 2014, committed to the environment – “before he went on a private flight, now by electric car”, he told EL PAÍS in May during a meeting in Madrid– and also a father of a family, four children. “Instead of being an epic Murray-Kokinnakis, it’s more like a farce,” he laments for hours; “If my son was a ball boy and came home at five in the morning, I wouldn’t like it at all; he is not good for them, neither for the referees nor for the fans nor for us, the players. We have been talking about it for a long time, but when you start so late and these conditions exist…”.
It’s Murray, 250 games already in the majors, the survivor who has been able to come back from two sets against him the most times, 11 in total for the 10 of Federer, Boris Becker and Aaron Krickstein. A nocturnal animal who in 2009, along with Wawrinka, signed the first match with artificial light at Wimbledon, where in 2012 he broke by three minutes, against Baghdatis, the time limit of 11:00 p.m. in the London tournament. It is Murray the marathon runner, 4h 49m in the previous scale against Matteo Berrettini and standing after another five; 10h 34m between chest and back in just two games. It is Murray, mirror and passionate like few others, absolute ardor in seniority. This is attested by Bautista, who answers a question from this newspaper.
“Passion and love for tennis lead him to do everything he does and achieve everything he has achieved. He loves tennis and does whatever it takes to stay here on the circuit; he enjoys competing and playing; There are people who share it and others who don’t, but he has a dedication to his sport and an exemplary ability to excel and worthy of admiration. Not everyone would be able to do what he has done.” Indeed, Andy Murray is made of a different material.
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