James Corrigan: Murray makes riding no-frills twilight train a delight

View From The Sofa: Australian Open/BBC1
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The Independent Online

There can now be no doubt that Andy Murray will win the Australian Open and, come Sunday, England – and, if they insist, Scotland – will be celebrating the first British winner of a male Grand Slam since Fred Perry was in short trousers.

Just as there can be no doubt that by then you glory-seekers will have finally jumped on this bandwagon. Don't mind us who will have to ride pillion with you Murray-come-latelys. We've only been hitching on this twilight train – as the great Neil Diamond once sang – all week.

Two-fifteen in the morning, 3.30am, 5.15am... no hour has been too ungodly for us Murraymaniacs. We have sacrificed our slumber and, purely on the evidence of the ramblings of this column, some might suggest our sanity as well to exorcise our country's 74-year curse. So far our deprivation has been worth it, although, in truth, on Saturday there was very little deprivation. Blame the schedulers for that.

Midnight? What sort of time is that to play a tennis match in Melbourne? There were normal humans still up, still flipping around for normal drivel to watch. In fact if it wasn't for Murray, a rerun of Friday Night with Jonathan Ross was due to be aired (which happens to be a must-view until June for every licence fee payer who wants to see him off the premises).

Still, there was the final part of the FA Cup highlights on ITV to entice in the stragglers and who could resist Bolton's epic 2-0 victory over Sheffield United? Probably only the Andy addicts among us.

The best thing about the Beeb's early-hour coverage has been the complete lack of baloney beforehand. There has been none of the Big Fight studio talk when Sky informs you to tune in at 11pm and the boxers then climb into the ring at approximately 5.47am. The Beeb hasn't even got a studio at Melbourne Park and for all we know Chris Bailey and John Lloyd might be stuck in the grandstand clutching a couple of Nokias.

There is certainly an old-fashioned feel to the start of the programme, which reminds you of the classic football matches they show on EPSN. No introduction, no yada, no numb-skulling obvious analysis – just straight into the warm-up, with a "Welcome to Melbourne Park for Britain's Andy Murray against American John Isner". Still, Bailey and Lloyd did provide all the build-up we needed with a few chilling words. "Isner is a monster, 6ft 9in, size 15 feet," said Bailey. "In the previous round, Isner served 28 aces," said Lloyd. "He hit one second serve that went over Gaël Monfils's head. Monfils is 6ft 3in."

Yes, we feared for our boy against the tennis version of Nikolai Valuev. Fortunately Murray is not the tennis equivalent of David Haye and did not run away from the giant, jabbing him with the odd drop shot, but instead went toe-to-toe, or in the case of Murray v Isner, toe-to-French stick. After sizing up Ol' Satchel Feet in the first set, Murray proceeded to pulverise the Goliath with armoury which made David's weapon look like the Acme catapult it was. "This was a world-class performance," said Bailey, as blessedly understated as he had been all night.

The smart-arsery was left to Jim Courier, the wacky former champion, who is conducting the wacky post-match interviews on court for the wacky Australian broadcaster. "What's the best movie you've watched recently?" asked Courier, very wackily. Time for bed. But it wasn't even 3am. It constituted an early night.