The Scot should have been competing at the Australian Open but he was not allowed to travel to Melbourne after testing positive for Covid-19 and was then unable to find a “workable quarantine” to play at the grand slam after recovering.
Therefore he headed for the Biella Challenger Indoor in northern Italy where, as top seed and watched by a handful of people at the Palasport Biella, he took two hours and 10 minutes to see off Marterer 6-7, 6-2, 6-3.
After the first set went with serve, Murray lost a tie-break due to three errors – a forehand into the net at 4-3 down followed by going long and then wide.
Returning to his chair Murray, in his second Challenger Tour appearance in three years after reaching the quarter-finals in Majorca in 2019 after hip surgery, asked the umpire how long the set had taken. The answer he received was “57 minutes”.
He stepped things up to win his first break of serve at the fourth time of asking to go 2-1 up in the second set and, after another break, he closed out the set 6-2 with a couple of aces.
The current world number 124 again broke Marterer, whose five-year career earnings of $1.4 million do not even match what Murray won for his first Grand Slam victory at the 2012 US Open ($1.9m), to go 4-3 up in the third from where he completed victory.