The respect and affection with which Andy Murray is held in the tennis world came to the fore in the wake of his epic Australian Open victory over Matteo Berrettini.
Even the Italian could not help but gush about Murray’s ability to pull off such a win at the age of 35 with a metal hip, despite his intense disappointment at fluffing a match point in the fifth set.
Emma Raducanu revealed she took time out from her own preparations, saying: “I watched four sets of it. It was incredible. We had practice yesterday, but we stopped practice and we went on 20 minutes later to watch the breaker in the last set.
“He is such a role model for everyone in British tennis, but also I think on the tour, what he is doing and achieving. I’m so, so happy for him.”
The Scot has plenty of friends in the locker room, one of which is his next opponent, Thanasi Kokkinakis, who in true Australian fashion described him as a “ripper bloke”.
“Andy is someone I respect a great amount,” said the 26-year-old from Adelaide, who won the doubles title at Melbourne Park last year with his good friend Nick Kyrgios.
“He was someone when I came on to tour that was always willing to give some advice. We get along really well. I remember watching him when I was younger thinking this dude looks moody as hell, he looks miserable. Then when you got to know him, he is actually a ripper bloke and a good guy.”
While Murray was fighting his way past Berrettini under the roof on Rod Laver Arena in a clash lasting nearly five hours, Kokkinakis was being frustrated by the vagaries of Melbourne weather.
Extreme heat and storms caused delays on Tuesday and play was called off with Kokkinakis just five points away from victory over Fabio Fognini.
He then had to wait around through more rain delays on Wednesday before finally finishing off a 6-1 6-2 6-2 victory.
Kokkinakis is ranked down at 159, but he has beaten six top-20 players in his career, including Roger Federer in Miami and Andrey Rublev last week in his home city.
His only previous meeting with Murray came in Davis Cup in 2015, when the Australian won just six games in three sets.
“He definitely handed it to me that day, but I’m ready now, I feel good,” said Kokkinakis.
“It’s going to be a tough match, obviously. I watched a fair bit of his match against Berrettini and he played great. He is looking in good shape. I practised with him a fair bit recently.
“I’m just going to continue to play my game. He may have lost a little bit, but his anticipation is just as good as ever, and he can still play at the top with the best of them. I’m going to be ready for the best version of Murray.”
Kokkinakis would surely be ranked higher but for injuries that have blighted his career, with his right shoulder the main source of trouble.
“At times I wish I had metal body parts, they might have held up a little bit better,” he said ruefully in reaction to Murray’s continued exploits.
The 35-year-old was moving gingerly after defeating Berrettini, but the intense physical work he put in in the off-season paid dividends on court, and he is hoping he will pull up in decent shape.
“It’s obviously not that easy to recover from a four-hour, 45-minute match,” he said.
“But I have put myself in the best chance to be able to do that with the training and stuff that I’ve done the last few months. I wouldn’t expect myself to feel perfect on Thursday, but hopefully I’ll be in a good place.”
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