By Claire Stanley
Now that I’ve had the chance to calm down, somewhat, sleep and reflect on what happened in Melbourne last night, I’m ready to put my feelings into words.
Andy Murray v Matteo Berrettini may go down as one of my favourite, most exhilarating, most stressful matches in history. There really is no comparison to watching this kind of match live – you feel every raw emotion from the players and everyone around you, the air almost pulsates with energy and the sound is at times deafening.
I lived a thousand lives and died a thousand deaths last night. I couldn’t quite believe what I was witnessing in those first two sets. As ever I went into the match with my usual unwavering belief in Andy’s abilities – I said to multiple people beforehand that he could do it, he absolutely could beat Matteo. He was, after all, due a win after two tough losses in 2022. I figured by now he would have a better grasp on Matteo’s game, know his weaknesses, know what to expose… I wasn’t wrong and in those first two sets Murray did everything right, his tactics were flawless, his first serve had improved and his forehand looked strong and powerful – whatever he was doing with his coach Ivan Lendl was working and Matteo simply couldn’t get a grip on Murray’s game.
By the end of the second set I was almost convinced I would be on my way out of Rod Laver within the hour. I say almost because at the end of the day, I still know this is Andy Murray and anything can happen. And happen it did – Matteo took a short break between the second and third sets and came back out a different player. His aces were, put simply, stunning – the sheer force and power in the way he hit the ball was really something to see. I started to get “a feeling” – not a good one, but a sinking feeling that this wasn’t going to be quite so clear cut as I had hoped mere minutes before.
Throughout those third and fourth sets my emotions mirrored Andy’s – my shoulders slumped every time Matteo hit a blistering ace, usually when Andy had a break point or a chance to put the Italian under pressure. I screamed, roared and fist pumped when he did – he wasn’t done. He wasn’t letting the pressure get to him, he wasn’t losing that belief he could do it. Neither was I.
I could barely watch the fourth set tiebreak and by the time we entered the fifth and deciding set I was a woman on edge, watching through the sheer veil of my Scotland flag, almost using it as a protective shield against what was playing out before me. I had Owen (@tennisnation and Popcorn Tennis editor) checking in on me regularly: are you OK? How do you feel? He can still do this.
The fifth set is still a bit of a blur, I went through it on autopilot, willing Andy to hold his serve like his life depended on it – and hold it he did. There were some huge holds of serve that were crucial but if you ask me to pinpoint exactly which ones there were, I’ll laugh in your face – by the time we were at that point I could barely tell you my own name.
The championship tiebreak: as soon as Andy got the early mini break and consolidated by holding his own, I knew – I knew in my heart – he was going to do this. It didn’t come easy, at 6-2 I thought we were home and dry, and in the blink of an eye it was 8-6. But he refused to lie down, he refused to give up, and the crowd was getting louder and louder. My throat was raw and my voice was hoarse with emotion but I kept cheering him on, convinced he could hear my voice among the thousands. You can do this Andy, you’ve got him, you’re almost there.
And it was match point, Matteo to serve – I knew this was it. I had my phone out, ready to film the moment Murray captured his 50th Australian Open win. The joy – and relief – I felt when I saw that ball bounce off the net cord and fall onto Matteo’s side was also mixed with a moment of sheer disbelief. Is that how it happened? Is that how the match ended? There was a split second of silence – so minute if you weren’t there you probably missed it – before we realised what had happened and the crowd erupted. He had done it.
It still isn’t over. Better never stops.