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Is Andy Murray About to Become Andy Murray Again?

The efforts have earned Murray a showdown Friday with Matteo Berrettini of Italy, the 13th seed, a finalist at Wimbledon last year with a hammer-like serve and forehand. Murray is very familiar with both shots. He and Berrettini often practice together, including a testosterone-fueled set two weeks ago as they prepared for this tournament. Not that it matters, but Berrettini said they were all even at 5-5 and played a tiebreaker, which he won, because other players had reserved the court and were waiting. (Yes, this happens to the pros, as well.)

“I always look for players that have a strong energy, that really want to practice hard, because that’s what I like to do,” Berrettini said. “He’s one of those.”

Berrettini, 26, is the sort of younger player at the top of his powers that Murray has rarely been able to get past during his five-year journey through debilitating pain and rehabilitation from two hip surgeries, the second a major procedure to resurface the top of the thigh bone and replace the hip socket and cartilage with a metal shell.

Just when Murray seems on the cusp of the breakthrough he has sought long after many players with his résumé would have packed it in, some young buck gets on him, often in the early round of a tournament. With a ranking as low as his, the protection of a high seeding remains elusive.

The losses create a dispiriting cycle. Without matches and wins, he can’t improve his ranking, currently No. 51. And without a higher ranking, he has to leave his fate up to the luck of the draw. If it doesn’t go his way and he loses a hard-fought early match to a big-time opponent, his ranking does not improve, which often leads to more draws with opponents who have proved too tough.

There would seem to be every reason to not deal with the headaches and frustrations that come with being an aging, formerly sublime professional. For so long, Murray’s creativity, touch and ability to spin the ball every which way, combined with his blazing speed, power, and never-give-up defense, made for can’t-miss tennis.

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