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Australian Open: One last Melbourne dance for Andy Murray?

Andy Murray is set to play his 15th Australian Open and while his best days might be behind him, few players have lit up Melbourne like the Scot over the last two decades.

Murray has played many a marathon match on his way to reaching five Australian Open finals without winning the event and adding to his three Grand Slams crowns.

That record of losing five finals at a particular major is matched only by his current coach Ivan Lendl, who did the same at the US Open. However, The Terminator's five near misses came during an incredible run of reaching the final at Flushing Meadows for eight straight years between 1982 and 1989, winning the tournament in 1985, 1986 and 1987.

For Murray, it looks unlikely that he will claim a fourth career Grand Slam this month in Melbourne but even playing at the event is remarkable, having hinted that he could retire after losing a gruelling opener to Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut in 2019.

After a rollercoaster ride, he returned Down Under last year and having reached the second round, he will be hoping to upset Matteo Berrettini to emulate last year's showing and, perhaps, go further.

What2023 Australian Open
WhereMelbourne Park, Australia
WhenMonday 16th January - Sunday 29th January
How to watchEurosport 1 and 2, Discovery+
OddsNovak Djokovic 8/11, Daniil Medvedev 9/2, Rafael Nadal 11/1
Iga Swiatek 2/1, Aryna Sabalenka 8/1, Caroline Garcia 11/1

Steady progress

Despite his excellent record in Australia, it took Murray a while to find his best tennis in Australia, falling at the first hurdle in both 2006 and 2008.

It was in 2010 that he reached his first final, after which he quipped "I can cry like Roger, it's just a shame I can't play like him" after losing to Federer in straight sets before falling to the same fate against Novak Djokovic 12 months later.

After again losing to Djokovic in an epic semi-final in 2012, his maiden Grand Slam triumph at the US Open combined with Olympic glory earlier that summer gave him renewed confidence heading into 2013.

However, after beating Djokovic in New York, the Serb got revenge in Melbourne with a four-set victory before Murray returned the favour at Wimbledon for his first SW19 crown.

Djokovic again ends Murray mission

A defeat to Federer in the last eight in 2014 was followed by another defeat to Djokovic in the 2015 final and it was the same case 12 months later.

Just for a change, the Serb also got in his way in the final at the 2016 French Open but Murray finally got the third Grand Slam his efforts deserved at that summer's Wimbledon before backing it up by retaining his Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro.

Were it not for Djokovic, and to a lesser extent, Federer, Murray could have been the master of Melbourne but that has been the story of his career, with his time at the top coinciding with the three best men's players of all time.

While Federer has now retired, reigning champion Nadal is aiming to claim a record-extending 23rd major.

The Spaniard is 16/1 To Win Outright, with Djokovic 5/6 to draw level with the 'King of Clay' on 22 majors. Meanwhile, Murray is out at 200/1 but the fact he is in Melbourne is a testament to his strength of will and his comeback is typical of how he has so often battled from the baseline to keep coming back at his opponents.

That speech after losing to Bautista Agut in 2019 really did feel like the end, having previously fallen to 839th in the world in 2018 as he missed four Slams on the bounce through the end of 2017 and into 2018.

However, he has shown signs of a resurgence since his second hip surgery and at 35, clearly continues to be enthused by the game, reaching his first ATP final and returning to the top 50 in the world last year.

A sixth Melbourne final is 150/1 and given his history, get past 13th seed Berrettini and his section of the draw is not entirely penal.

A tough opening draw beckons

However, that could be easier said than done with him set to come up against last year's semi-finalist with the match provisionally scheduled for Tuesday.

The Italian beat him in the third round of the 2022 US Open, as well as in last year's final in Stuttgart and at Queen's in 2021.

Berrettini missed both the French Open and Wimbledon last year due to a combination of illness and injury and started 2023 with a decent run representing Italy at the United Cup.

The 26-year-old is 12/5 to win 3-1 in the Set Betting, as he did at Flushing Meadows, with Murray 5/2 To Win Match.

It promises to be a tough test for the Scot, with the omnipotent pressure of it potentially being his final game at the tournament only adding to the pressure.

That said, with his history of battling through adversity, few would be surprised to see him pull off one last upset, with the winner taking on either home hope Thanasi Kokkinakis or another Italian in Fabio Fognini.

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