Andy Murray column: Australian Open return & Cristiano Ronaldo-style celebrations

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Andy Murray column

Dates: 17-30 January Venue: Melbourne Park
Coverage: Daily radio commentaries on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, BBC Sport website and app, with selected live text commentaries online; TV highlights from middle Saturday.

Britain’s Andy Murray is back at the Australian Open and back as a BBC Sport columnist.

The 34-year-old former world number one talks about his thrilling five-set win against Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili in round one and blocking out Cristiano Ronaldo-style ‘Siuuuu’ celebrations from the fans.

Three years ago in Melbourne I thought I had potentially played the last match of my career.

You will remember the emotional news conference where I said I thought it might be the case, although on reflection I probably didn’t convey my thoughts as well as I might have done.

I was so anxious before going in there!

Emotions had been building up for a long time, because I was hampered by the hip injury and it was affecting my life outside of tennis too.

So to be finally back at the Australian Open again this year – playing on the same court as 2019 and then beating Basilashvili in five sets – was a brilliant experience.

In 2019 it didn’t feel like it was me out there on the court. I was severely hampered physically and had little to no preparation.

I didn’t know if I was going to be able to play again and if I had beaten Roberto Bautista Agut I probably wouldn’t have physically been able to play the next match.

After the hip surgery, and loads of stops and starts with more niggles, playing in Grand Slams again is a place which I have worked so hard to get to.

It would have been easy to stop playing – but I kept trying and trying. I’m proud of that work and effort.

There was another setback last year when I couldn’t come to Australia because I tested positive for coronavirus shortly before I was supposed to fly out.

That was brutal for me. I had trained really hard through the end of November and December, I was playing really well.

I had played lots of practice, I felt really fit and then that positive test happened. I was gutted.

The injuries and setbacks I could take but that was difficult because when the Australian Open was on I was competing in a Challenger event in Italy.

I was healthy, I’d just had the virus and recovered from it. Obviously I understood the rules and situation here in Melbourne but I just wished I would have been able to play.

Blocking out the Ronaldo ‘Siuuuus’

The setbacks makes nights like Tuesday even more enjoyable. It was a brilliant atmosphere on John Cain Arena, like it always is because the crowd can be very noisy.

At first I thought the fans were booing me and, at one stage, I think Basilashvili thought they were booing him too. Then I realised a little later they were doing the ‘Siuuuu’ celebration that Cristiano Ronaldo does.

I joked it was irritating but to be honest you just blank that sort of thing out. It doesn’t affect you once you realise what it is and are expecting it.

It added to the atmosphere, which was amazing. These are the moments and matches I want to try to create as much as possible – especially when I know I’m 34 and retirement might not be too far away.

The Grand Slams are where everyone in our sport wants to be, playing in front of huge crowds and that’s something I’ve always thrived on.

At Wimbledon last year I got to play in some special atmospheres under the lights on Centre Court. The crowd really spurred me on and really enjoyed those occasions.

Hopefully there will be many more to come.

Andy Murray celebrates beating Nikoloz Basilashvili at the Australian Open
The victory against Basilashvili was Murray’s first at the Australian Open since 2017

‘I won’t be able to move again like I’m 25’

It is always exciting for me to be back in Melbourne. The conditions have suited my game, that’s why I have played consistently well over here and reached the final five times.

Beating Basilashvili was a big win for me. A lot of work has gone into getting back to this tournament and to physically compete at the highest level, so beating a guy ranked in the top 25 and winning a match in five sets was very satisfying.

I’m probably never going to move as well as I did as I did when I was 25.

But the more matches I play, staying healthy for a long period of time and not missing lots of training, means I am going to continue to improve my movement. Then, my physicality on the court will get better.

When I’ve had breaks like I’ve had and missed two or three months it takes time to build up physicality again.

Because I’ve had these consistent matches and I’ve been able to train for long periods in the past seven, eight months, my movement and anticipation is getting better again.

I reached the Sydney final last week, which was brilliant, but I felt like it could have a negative effect against Basilashvili, just because conditions are different here.

In Sydney you are playing on an indoor court and the surface is a little slower than the one here. Playing outdoors with the wind changes things too.

So I felt that was a disadvantage for me because I didn’t have much time to get used to the conditions. But now I get a day’s rest and the three-and-a-half hours I spent on the court on Tuesday should help me when I play Taro Daniel on Thursday.

Andy Murray was talking to BBC Sport’s Jonathan Jurejko at Melbourne Park



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