Andy Murray has been targeting games against the world’s top players as the next step on his long road back to the top and an impressive 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (9-7) first-round victory over world No 13 Matteo Berrettini at the China Open was the perfect start.
The former British No 1 and three-time Grand Slam champion was handed a tough test when the draw paired him with the talented Italian, who was seeded eighth and reached the US Open semi-finals last month.
A brilliant tie-break from Murray saw him take the opening set after he recovered from a break down and, with just four unforced errors, he took the early initiative.
Despite being on the back foot for much of the second set, Murray sealed his victory in a tie-break full of quality that saw him throw away an advantage and save a couple of Berrettini set points before sealing a notable and impressive success.
Murray, now ranked 513 in the world, won this tournament in 2016, and he will now face fellow Briton Cameron Norrie in the second round.
In the first meeting between the players, Berrettini found an early break of serve and, having struggled to create an opportunity for a break back, it was not until the eighth game of the opener that Murray saw a small window at 30-40.
However, the Italian’s big serve and huge forehand saw him wrestle the advantage back before a Murray-like touch sealed the hold with a delicate drop shot, but the Scot was not to be outdone.
After holding serve he forced Berrettini to close out the first set and, with the Italian tightening up, Murray marched out to a 0-40 advantage, eventually breaking to level the match at 5-5 and then moving into the lead as Berrettini lost his way.
Winning 13 of 15 points, Murray was within two points of the first set but Berrettini regained his composure to take the opener to a tie-break where the older man ran away with things, taking it 7-2 to claim the first set.