“It’s an honour to play against him in this kind of court.” The words of Italian world No10 Matteo Berrettini after he beat 36-year-old Andy Murray in three sets at the final of the Stuttgart Open yesterday.
For three-time Grand Slam winner Murray, who has spent much of his recent career dogged by injury, the result matters not – because the run to a grass court final represents his first in singles since winning Wimbledon for the second time in 2016.
Andy Murray isn’t ‘back’ and he’ll forever be an outsider for any major tournament, but his 6-4 5-7 6-3 loss against the brilliant Berrettini – whose career really kicked on following a win against Murray at Queen’s last year – offers the Scotsman, and British tennis, the opportunity to dream.
Murray in doubles?
Few believe he will go on to win Wimbledon, and some suggest he may not compete at Queen’s – which begins today – but the tantalising prospect of the former world No1 going on a SW19 run is something onlookers can only hope for.
And of the rumours surrounding a potential mixed doubles pairing with British tennis’ current diamond Emma Raducanu? What a prospect.
On his way to yesterday’s final Murray overcame world No6 Stefanos Tsitsipas and the excitable Nick Kyrgios. And having not won a title since 2019 – in Antwerp – he would be looking to add to his impressive 8-1 record in his 10th grass final.
Berrettini took the first set in a regulation 6-4 fashion before Murray fought in the second set to secure it 7-5.
On the ropes in the opening game of the third and deciding set, Murray needed a massage from his team and upon his return to action the Brit was soon down 2-0.
It proved a decisive break from his Roman opponent and Berrettini took the decider 6-3.
It was characteristic from Murray; self-deprecating chatter throughout but able to rally himself when he needed to – especially in the second set. Alas, his opponent was too strong.
“There’s been a lot of progress the last few weeks,” he said after the match. “I’m looking forward to what the future has to hold.
“[I am] feeling a lot better about my game and hopefully my body can hold up a little while longer.”
Murray’s chances of winning his home Slam again are slim, but in his Stuttgart showing the 36-year-old with the metal hip is once again giving British tennis fans that pre-Wimbledon buzz once more.