AO 2023: Murray pride in putting on a show

The second day of action at Melbourne Park produced another scorching series of tennis Down Under.

Andy Murray Australian Open 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Monday was a scintillating start to the 2023 Australian Open. Well, Tuesday more than matched it with legendary figures having their say.

Here are some of the key headlines from around the grounds at Melbourne Park.

50 and counting after Murray magic

Four hours and 49 minutes on the clock. That's right, it was another Andy Murray Melbourne rollercoaster

After a bit of time to reflect, the 35-year-old Tweeted; "We left it all out there. Hope you enjoyed the show." We certainly did!

At two sets up on world No.14 Matteo Berrettini, the Brit looked destined to post his first Top 20 victory at a Grand Slam since Roland-Garros 2017.

Back roared Berrettini, with the rallies enthralling a packed Rod Laver Arena, en route to a match point. However, the 2022 semi-finalist netted a routine backhand at 6-5 in the fifth set and the clash went down to the wire.

Five-time runner-up Murray, with a bloodied right knee from a diving volley, wasn't to be denied and dominated the match tie-break for his 50th Australian Open victory.

"I'll be feeling this this evening and tomorrow. But right now I am unbelievably happy and very proud of myself," stated Murray, after closing out the 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-7(7), 7-6[10-6] epic.

"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 and in matches like this. It paid off tonight."

Novak is back with a bang


Novak Djokovic began his pursuit of a mind-boggling 10th Australian Open trophy with an archetypal tennis clinic from the Serbian.

The 21-time Grand Slam champion, returning to Rod Laver Arena after his dramatic 2022 absence, lasered past gutsy Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena 6-3, 6-4, 6-0.

Make that 22 match wins in a row at the Australian Open.

"Unbelievable atmosphere," hailed the 35-year-old, lapping up his warm reception. "This court is the most special court in my life, I couldn't have asked for a better start to the tournament.

"I'm very pleased how I played in the third set, I didn't give him room to breathe at the back of the court."

Ons the move, Jabeur's backs up placing

Ons Jabeur was determined to justify the ranking next to her name. The world No.2 could have let frustrations boil over, let her own expectations overbear.

Instead, the Tunisian trailblazer ended a valiant display from world No.98 Tamara Zidansek 7-6(8), 4-6, 6-1 to move on in Melbourne.

"It was a very tough match. I wasn't playing very well and she was putting a lot of pressure on me. I know she is a player who doesn't give up, brings every ball in," said Jabeur, meeting Alison Riske-Amritraj or Marketa Vondrousova next.

"I just tried to be more patient. It's a tough sport and you definitely don’t want to play three sets here. I kept it clean at the end and I was playing nice tennis.

"I was pretty frustrated, but I'm glad I let it out in the second set. I just told myself to be No.2 in the world and win this match." 

Birrell brilliance, Garcia soars

Kimberly Birrell is making up for lost time.

The promising Australian youngster, who reached the third round at the 2019 Australian Open before two elbow surgeries, found the answers 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-1 over experienced 31st seed Kaia Kanepi.

“I’m doing what I absolutely love and not many people get to wake up and live their dream,” said an emotional Birrell.

Meanwhile, No.5 seed Aryna Sabalenka needed just 69 minutes, surrendering five games to bypass Tereza Martincova.

"I think I need to work on my mindset, I have to be calm and I have to just fight for every point and don’t get upset with every mistake I'm making," stated the 24-year-old. "I really believe that this is the only thing missing in my game," 

In-form Caroline Garcia soared into the second round with a comprehensive 6-3, 6-0 victory over the net from Canadian qualifier Katherine Sebov.

The No.4 seeded Frenchwoman advances for a tantalising encounter with Leylah Fernandez. The 2021 US Open finalist dismissed Garcia's compatriot Alize Cornet 7-5, 6-2.

Adelaide 2 champion Belinda Bencic burst out of the blocks 6-1, 6-2 up against Viktoriya Tomova, whilst Elise Mertens reeled in 2020 finalist Garbine Muguruza 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-1.

Rublev rattles past "close friend" Thiem


Andrey Rublev's sharp start went relatively under the radar at Melbourne Park. The No.5 seed dictated proceedings 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 with former finalist Dominic Thiem.

Continuing his comeback from a prolonged wrist injury, Thiem is still searching for his elite level which secured the 2020 US Open and also earned two Roland-Garros final spots. On Tuesday, he collided with a Rublev in red hot form, in red hot conditions.

"I know that he's not going through an easy time so I want to wish him all the best to come back on the level that he belongs," said a gracious Rublev, awaiting either Australian qualifier Max Purcell or Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori at the second hurdle.

“When you see that you have to play against Dominic it's never easy, plus we are really good friends."

No.9 seed Holger Rune and Australia's leading light Alex de Minaur motored through in straight sets, meanwhile, Team USA's Taylor Fritz fired down a career-best 32 aces to overcome Nikoloz Basilashvili in four sets.

Well after midnight No.2 seed Casper Ruud prevented becoming embroiled in a five-set tussle, edging Czech Tomas Machac 6-3, 7-6(6), 6-7(5), 6-3.