Murray, now ranked outside the world’s top 500 but playing the 500-level China Open on his protected ranking, is looking for just the second ATP Tour singles match win since his hip resurfacing surgery in January.
After playing doubles at six tournaments earlier in the season, most successfully at the Fever-Tree Championships at Queen’s Club where he won alongside singles champion Feliciano Lopez, Murray switched his focus to singles during the American hard-court swing, playing the Cincinnati Masters and Winston-Salem Open, although he lost his opening matches to Richard Gasquet and Tennys Sandgren respectively.
Murray got the first actual wins of his comeback when he dropped down to Challenger Tour level to play the Rafa Nadal Open in Mallorca, while the man for which that tournament is named, a one-time rival of Murray’s, won the US Open in New York. He beat the unranked Imran Sibille and then world no. 115 Norbert Gombos before falling to Matteo Viola in the quarterfinals.
At the Zhuhai Championships last week, Murray finally got the first ATP Tour-level win of his comeback and the first since beating James Duckworth in Brisbane in January as he defeated Sandgren 6-3, 6-7(60, 6-1 – and although he was unable to get back-to-back wins, falling to Alex de Minaur in a grueling two-hour, 42-minute contest in which de Minaur prevailed 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, there will have been some consolation in the fact that de Minaur went on to win the tournament, as well as in how close Murray was able to keep what was a very physical contest until the very end.
‘My body held up well after two pretty long matches but the rest of my body is just tired,’ Murray said last week.
‘I wasn’t able to sustain it for long enough. I played one or two good points, but then I was trying to finish the points a little bit early and shot selection goes down when you’re tired.’
Murray had previously said that he was playing top-70 tennis – which is not helpful when you’re facing some of the absolute best in the world, as he will be doing in Beijing.
Murray has never failed to make the quarterfinals at least at the China Open on three previous appearances, winning it the last time he played in 2016 when he defeated Grigor Dimitrov in the final, although it’s doubtful that being on a five-match winning streak in Beijing will stand him in particularly good stead against Tuesday’s opponent.
Matteo Berrettini comes into the China Open at a career-high ranking of world no. 13 after a career-best, breakthrough season. The 23-year-old Italian not only made a run to the US Open semifinals, beating Gael Monfils in five sets in the quarterfinals in order to reach the final four, but has won titles in Budapest and Stuttgart in 2019 as well as finishing runner-up in Munich, winning the Phoenix Challenger and making the semifinals in Sofia and Halle.
Berrettini made the second round of the China Open as a qualifier last year but after this week, has very few points to defend and certainly could be set for a very strong finish to the season. The big-serving Berrettini returned to action after the US Open two weeks ago, not at the Laver Cup but in St Petersburg where he beat Roberto Carballes Baena before losing to Egor Gerasimov – a defeat that seemed surprising at the time, but actually Gerasimov has been on excellent form of late, so not one to read too much into.
Murray and Berrettini have never played before, but if Murray was at anything like full strength, I should have no hesitation in predicting a victory for the British player. Berrettini is great, but the Italian, with his big serve and weaker backhand, is precisely the kind of player that Murray has made a career out of defusing and picking apart. But this is not Murray at anything like full strength, obviously, although his movement and in particular his forehand looked so much better in Zhuhai than they have done previously. Berrettini can get a little overawed against a big name, but his serve should allow him to settle into the match and once he has, he should be able to overpower Murray, who is not playing the kind of tennis – yet – that would allow him to dismantle a player of Berrettini’s calibre.
Murray vs Berrettini China Open tennis is live from Beijing on Tuesday at 1pm local/6am BST
Murray vs Berrettini tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Murray faces US Open semifinalist Berrettini in Beijing
For the first time since his hip surgery, Andy Murray faces a top-20 player in the form of world no….
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