Australian Open: Andy Murray’s biggest major win in years as extreme heat stops play

Andy Murray
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MELBOURNE, Australia — Metal hip, bloody knee and all, Andy Murray produced his biggest victory in years.

Murray built a huge lead, let it disappear completely, then needed to save a match point against Matteo Berrettini — who is nearly a full decade younger and ranked more than 50 places higher — before managing to pull out a 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (10-6) triumph across more than 4 1/2 epic hours on Tuesday in the Australian Open’s first round.

“The last few years, I’ve certainly questioned myself at times. There’s certainly a lot of people (who) questioned me and my ability, whether I could still perform at the biggest events and the biggest matches,” said the 35-year-old Murray, a former No. 1 now ranked No. 66. “I felt very proud of myself after the match. That’s not something that I generally felt over the years at the end of tennis matches.”

This was the three-time major champion’s first defeat of a top-20 opponent at a Grand Slam tournament since 2017. That was before Murray thought he would need to retire — and even was given a career send-off at Melbourne Park in 2019, when he exited in the first round a year after his first hip operation.

After a second surgery inserted an artificial hip, Murray decided to try to continue playing. This sort of evening was likely what he had in mind when he pressed on — and when he spent three weeks in Boca Raton, Florida, practicing under the tutelage of coach Ivan Lendl during the offseason.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men

“I’ve put a lot of work into the last few months with my team to give me the opportunity to perform on stadiums like this, in matches like this, against players like Matteo,” Murray told a crowd that roared with approval for him. “And it paid off tonight.”

Oh, yes, what a performance it was, filled with the sort of grit that defined much of Murray’s time on tour, that carried him to championships at the U.S. Open in 2012 and at Wimbledon in 2013 and 2016 and to two Olympic singles gold medals.

Murray is also a five-time runner-up at Melbourne Park, with four losses in the final to Novak Djokovic and one to Roger Federer.

“He’s a great champion. I said it so many times,” said Berrettini, an Italian who is one of the players chronicled in the new “Break Point” Netflix docuseries. “Personally, was great to play with that atmosphere against him. Just a great match. Unfortunately it didn’t go my way.”

There were moments Tuesday when Murray played as he did a long time ago, diving to hit a volley before slamming to the blue court — scraping his right leg — or sprinting to somehow reach seemingly unreachable shots, then looking up into the stands at Lendl and shaking a fist while yelling, “Let’s go! Come on now!”

Murray raced through the first two sets in less than 1 1/2 hours before the big-hitting, big-serving Berrettini turned things around and took the match to a fifth, even coming within one point of victory at 5-4 in that set but faltering and flubbing an easy backhand.

By beating the 13th-seeded Berrettini, who was the runner-up at Wimbledon in 2021, Murray became only the fifth man in the Open era with 50 match wins at the Australian Open, joining Djokovic, Federer, Rafael Nadal and Stefan Edberg.

They played under a closed roof at Rod Laver Arena because of temperatures that soared up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) and caused suspensions of play that lasted hours in matches on smaller courts that can’t be covered. Later, a rainstorm came, creating another pause in the action.

This was the most-anticipated match of the afternoon session and lasted so long it finished after 7 p.m. local time, most definitely living up to the hype.

“Some of the tennis at the end was really good,” Murray said. “It felt like that playing; I don’t know what it looked like.”

Looked terrific, Andy.

It was difficult to imagine that the night session matches scheduled to follow in Laver could possibly equal the intensity and drama. First came a 7-6 (8), 4-6, 6-1 win for the No. 2-seeded woman, Ons Jabeur, over Tamara Zidansek, followed by nine-time champion Djokovic’s 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 defeat of Roberto Carballes Baena in his return to the Australian Open after being deported from the country a year ago for not being vaccinated against COVID-19.

Djokovic received a loud and warm reception when he entered the court from fans who chanted his nickname and waved dozens of Serbian flags.

Murray and Berrettini concluded with the first-to-10-points, win-by-2 tiebreaker formula that all Grand Slam events adopted for the fifth sets of men’s matches and third sets of women’s. Murray said it was his first experience with that relatively new format.

Make no mistake: He was far better in that decisive section of the match, jumping out to leads of 5-0 and 8-3. It ended in a bit of anticlimactic fashion: Murray’s service return clipped the net cord and trickled over for a winner.

“Just a bit lucky at the end,” said Murray, who next will meet Thanasi Kokkinakis or Fabio Fognini.

Murray has wondered aloud whether all of the work he put in to get back to a level of play that satisfied him was worth it.

“I need to give myself some credit, because the last few years have been tough,” Murray said. “I’ve lost a few of those matches, those type of matches, in the Slams the last couple years.”

He arrived in Australia having lost in the first or second round in seven of his nine most recent Grand Slam appearances. The other two ended in the third round.

For now, this one continues.

“It’s impressive what he could do after so many surgeries, after all the kilometers that he ran in his career. It’s impressive,” Berrettini said. “It just shows how much he loves the game, how much he loves these kind of matches.”

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Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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Mark McMorris breaks Winter X Games medals record; David Wise wins first title in 5 years

Mark McMorris
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Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris broke his tie with American Jamie Anderson for the most Winter X Games medals across all sites, earning his 22nd medal, a slopestyle gold, in Aspen, Colorado.

On the final run of Sunday’s contest, McMorris overtook Norway’s Marcus Kleveland with back-to-back 1620s on the last two jumps. McMorris’ last three Aspen slopestyle titles were all won on his final run (2019, 2022).

“It’s something I never thought would ever come to me as a kid from Saskatchewan,” McMorris, 29, said on the broadcast. “Everything’s just been a bonus since I became a pro snowboarder.”

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression of their best run over the course of a jam session rather than scoring individual runs.

McMorris won his record-extending seventh X Games Aspen men’s slopestyle title, one day after finishing fourth in big air.

“It just keeps getting crazier because I keep getting older,” he said. “People just keep pushing the limits, pushing the limits. Last night was such a downer, almost bums me out, like, dude, do I still have it? … To have one of those miracle wins where you do it on the last run and someone makes you push yourself, those are the best feelings.”

McMorris won slopestyle bronze medals at each of the last three Olympics and reportedly said last February that he was planning to compete through the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games.

Canadian Max Parrot, the 2022 Olympic slopestyle champion, is taking this season off from competition.

Anderson, a two-time Olympic snowboard slopestyle champion, is expecting her first child.

Later Sunday, American David Wise earned his first major ski halfpipe title since repeating as Olympic champion in 2018. Wise landed back-to-back double cork 1260s to end his winning run, according to commentators.

“I wouldn’t still be out here if I didn’t think I had a chance,” Wise, 32 and now a five-time X Games Aspen champ, said on the broadcast. “I’m not going to be the guy who just keeps playing the game until everybody just begs me to stop.”

U.S. Olympian Mac Forehand won men’s ski big air with a 2160 on his last run, according to commentators. It scored a perfect 50. Olympic gold medalist Birk Ruud of Norway followed with a triple cork 2160 of his own, according to commentators, and finished third.

Canadian skier Megan Oldham added slopestyle gold to her big air title from Friday, relegating Olympic champion Mathilde Gremaud of Switzerland to silver.

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