Murray, currently ranked 66, went into the match against last year’s semi-finalist and world No 14 as the underdog, especially as Berrettini had defeated him three times last season. However, the Scot – five times a runner-up at this tournament – played some inspired tennis and fought off a storming fightback from the Italian to record a 6-3 6-3 4-6 6-7 (7/9) 7-6 (10/6) triumph.
Murray raced into an early 3-0 lead in the first set with an opening break of Berrettini’s serve and managed to fend off two break-back points on his own serve in the seventh game as he went on to clinch it 6-3. The three-time Slam champion kept up his fine levels in the second set, breaking Berrettini to 15 in the first game of it and then breaking once again to take it 6-3 and move tantalisingly close to a major result in Melbourne.
Berrettini, a former Wimbledon finalist, is made of stern stuff, though. He staved off break points on his serve and then broke Murray for the first time in the match midway through the third set, taking it 6-4. Both men served excellently in the fourth set to tee up an exhilarating tie-break, which Berrettini edged 9-7 – winning one of the points of the match after a 24-shot rally – to force a decider.
The man from Rome now had the momentum going into the final set, and while Murray was starting to tire, he was able to stick with Berrettini until the tenth game, where the Scot coughed up a match point at 4-5, 30-40. Berrettini, however, dumped a routine backhand into the bottom of the net and Murray was given a reprieve as he held for 5-5.
Both men held serve again to force a match tie-break (first to ten) at 6-6 and Murray started exceptionally, racing into a 5-0 lead. As valiantly as Berrettini tried to battle back, Murray was able to see out the breaker 10-6 after nearly five hours in a victory that ranks very high in his illustrious career. "I'll be feeling this tomorrow, but right now I'm unbelievably happy, very proud,” Murray said in his on-court interview. “I've put a lot of work in over the last few months, and it paid off tonight.”
Murray will face either another Italian in Fabio Fognini or home favourite Thanasi Kokkinakis in the next round on Thursday morning.