By Claire Stanley
Heart racing, the sound of it thumping loudly in your ears, mouth bone dry and scratchy, palms sweating. Waves of nausea coming and going as you try to control your emotions.
It can only be an Andy Murray match.
He lulled us into a false sense of security in the early hours of Tuesday morning as he comfortably took the first set from an error strewn Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-1 in just 23 minutes. Hopes were raised…did we dare to think it would all be this easy?
Some of us did. Some of us made plans to get a bonus hour of sleep before starting work. Others decided an early morning walk with the dog would be lovely. The wise among us however remained cautious. The world-weary Murray veterans, and the not-so-veteran quick learners, knew there were some twists and turns to come.
And weren’t there just.
A dream first set became a nightmare second: a single break of serve from Murray wasn’t enough to save him from conceding 3-6. Basilashvili had found his rhythm and it was game on with Murray forced to fight for a chance to move into R2 for the first time since 2017.
He’s a man Murray has faced off with twice previously in the past six months: Wimbledon in July last year and, more recently, last week in Sydney. Both times was a battle. Both times Andy won. Would it be third time lucky for Basilashvili, or would Andy take their head to head to 3-0?
By the end of the third set we took a collective deep sigh of relief: Andy had it by a whisker and was in the lead once again. Surely it would be over in four?
In short – no.
A break from Basilashvili had us on the edge of our seats – this wasn’t looking good. This couldn’t be how it ended. Round two was in sight and Andy wasn’t going to go down quietly. He snatched the break back to take the set to a tiebreaker. It wasn’t ideal but it was a chance. Long-suffering Andy followers will cry from the rooftops that tiebreaks are not our friends. They’re unwelcome guests who give you anxiety, forcing you to watch them through one open eye or faces covered by hands. They are unpredictable and more often than not leave you curled up in the fetal position wondering what just happened.
In case you missed it, spoiler alert, Andy did not win that tiebreak. We go again.
An early break of serve from Murray wasn’t enough to calm the nerves, with Basilashvili firing shots as though his life depended on it. As he pushed Murray deeper and deeper into the court you could sense the shark was circling, ready to move in for the kill. And he did. The break back came and they were on serve once again. Four all and Andy served to put himself in the lead, a magnificent hold taking him to within one game of the second round. Could he hold his nerve and finish the match before another tiebreak?
I was on my feet. My heart was racing. My mouth was dry. My palms were sweating.
As Basilashvili raised his arm to serve my internet cut out, taking my live tennis stream with it.
The panic. The frantic race to get it working again. The desperate pleas for updates via social media. The silence was deafening. I had no idea if it was game set and match, or heartbreak – sorry, tiebreak – central.
Four minutes later all hell broke loose on Twitter. It was over. He had won. I may have missed those final points but I felt every second of the hysteria and emotion.
He’s back. It wasn’t over in 2019. It still isn’t over.