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Andy Murray wins latest comeback match against Matteo Berrettini in China Open
Last Updated: 01/10/19 3:51pm
Andy Murray has been targeting games against the world's top players as the next step on his long road back to the top and an impressive 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (9-7) first-round victory over world No 13 Matteo Berrettini at the China Open was the perfect start.
The former British No 1 and three-time Grand Slam champion was handed a tough test when the draw paired him with the talented Italian, who was seeded eighth and reached the US Open semi-finals last month.
A brilliant tie-break from Murray saw him take the opening set after he recovered from a break down and, with just four unforced errors, he took the early initiative.
Despite being on the back foot for much of the second set, Murray sealed his victory in a tie-break full of quality that saw him throw away an advantage and save a couple of Berrettini set points before sealing a notable and impressive success.
Murray, now ranked 513 in the world, won this tournament in 2016, and he will now face fellow Briton Cameron Norrie in the second round.
In the first meeting between the players, Berrettini found an early break of serve and, having struggled to create an opportunity for a break back, it was not until the eighth game of the opener that Murray saw a small window at 30-40.
However, the Italian's big serve and huge forehand saw him wrestle the advantage back before a Murray-like touch sealed the hold with a delicate drop shot, but the Scot was not to be outdone.
After holding serve he forced Berrettini to close out the first set and, with the Italian tightening up, Murray marched out to a 0-40 advantage, eventually breaking to level the match at 5-5 and then moving into the lead as Berrettini lost his way.
Winning 13 of 15 points, Murray was within two points of the first set but Berrettini regained his composure to take the opener to a tie-break where the older man ran away with things, taking it 7-2 to claim the first set.
Murray's return - the story so far.....
|Cincinnati Masters||R1 lost to Richard Gasquet||4-6 4-6|
|Winston-Salem Open||R1 lost to Tennys Sandgren||6-7 5-7|
|Rafa Nadal Open (Challenger)||L16 lost to Matteo Viola||6-3 4-6 6-7|
|Zhuhai Championships||L16 lost to Alex de Minaur||6-4 2-6 4-6|
Regrouping, the Italian raced out of the traps with another early break in the second set only for Murray to break back immediately and put the set back on level terms.
The pair traded the next eight games with Murray surviving a couple of threats to his serve that included an epic hold in the sixth game as the second set went the same way of the first - a tie-break where Murray clinched a memorable victory.
At 4-2 and 5-4 in the breaker, Murray was within touching distance of the biggest win of his comeback, but Berrettini fought back to conjure up a couple of set points that the Scot was forced to save before earning a first match point of his own, which he claimed to take the tie-break 9-7 and progress to the second round.
On his victory, Murray said: "It was a good one to get through. It was obviously pretty tight at the end of both sets.
"I think first set I probably served a little bit better at the end, and then the second set there was just a few sort of cat-and-mouse points at the end, which thankfully I came out on top of one or two more than him.
"Hopefully I can have a good run here. I feel like the progress has been quite consistent and hopefully that keeps going through to the end of the year."
What now for Murray?
Murray is playing under a protected ranking because of his long-term absence following hip surgery earlier this year and, having made a successful comeback to the doubles circuit in the summer, he has upped the ante during the hard court stage of the season.
He lost In Winston-Salem and Cincinnati before heading for the Challenger Tour where he racked up a couple of wins in succession in preparation for the Far East block of tournaments that has so far yielded two wins and one defeat.
Murray's level has increased each time he has played, sticking with younger, fitter opponents before a statement win against Berretini, and it will be interesting to see how he kicks on.
A winnable second-round match against Norrie is first before a possible quarter-final showdown against top-seed Dominic Thiem.
Murray is already committed to playing in the Shanghai Masters next week, but with the ATP Tour set to return to Europe for the final months of the season he will have ample opportunity for the game time he wants after a busy three weeks in China.
Having lost to eventual champion Alex de Minaur in Zhuhai last week, Murray said he needs to start playing "top-20 or top-30 tennis" against higher-ranked players to show him where he needs to be if he is to return to the upper echelons of the game.
While the 32-year-old is pleased to just be playing again, having feared his career at the highest level may be over, a win over Berrettini will have whetted the appetite for his comeback to go up another level in the final weeks of the season.