Jon Wertheim: This is a celebration of the fourth year since Andy Murray’s retirement. A delightful departure from the 2019 Australian Open, when the tournament went so far as to produce a farewell video, well… how silly it looks today. Murray never formally retired. He underwent a hip resurfacing procedure and struggled to return. But now, four years later, it’s still going. He won a first round match that lasted almost five hours. And now he has outdone himself in the second round, looking more like the player who once emerged than the 35-year-old father of four with metal hips.
It turned in one of the most impressive matches of his career, defeating Australia’s Thanasi Kokkanakis 4-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-3, 7-5. The thing took almost six hours and ended around 4am local time.
After his first-round defeat of Matteo Berrettini, Murray, uncharacteristically, said he was proud of himself and deserved the win. You could only imagine his thoughts on this follow-up victory. He won this match playing normal Murray tennis. Playing chess with his opponent’s checkers. Murray was at his best strategically and his best—in recent years at least—physically. How happy was he that he played more than 10 hours of tennis in two rounds at majors and you have nothing to lose? You also cannot ignore the presence of Ivan Lendl in the Murray camp. One of Lendl’s big priorities was for Murray to become more successful. And it was clear, on his serve and groundstrokes, that Murray used more force in this match.
Chris Almeida: I think it’s an interesting pattern—or, at least a few interesting occurrences over the past two major events—to see that some of the most impactful games we’ve seen haven’t come in the second week. We’ve gotten a lot of reds from legends who aren’t at their best yet throwing out some really tough games in the first or second round. And that’s great.
It’s still hard to see Murray going much further in this tournament. Kokkinakis is clearly a very talented player, but he has no seed for a reason. It is arbitrary. You’re never sure what you’re going to get from him when he’s under pressure. And you mention that Murray looked great physically, but that’s all with a caveat. You’re watching the end of this nearly six-hour match, and Andy Murray looks like he’s moving great…for a guy with metal hips. If this were 2013, we would probably have said that his movement looked very worried.
And so, it’s hard to believe that like one round after this … two rounds after this … three rounds after this that his game will be able to stand up, especially against more reliable opponents. So I don’t think anyone expects him to go ahead and win this tournament. But fans prefer Andy Murray. He is a good man. He is a fun tennis player to watch who has given us a lot, both as fans and media, during his long career. So if he wants to knock it out to try to make it to the second week, good for him.
JW: Directly. Is he going to win this competition? Probably not. Is he going to reach his sixth Australian Open final? Also probably not. But he has validated his decision not to retire in 2019 and is reminding us why he is such a special player.