Injured Andy Murray bows out of Australian Open after fighting 5-setter
Unsure of his future, injury-plagued Andy Murray thanks fans after 4-6, 4-6, 7-6, 7-6, 2-6 first-round loss to Bautista Agut; says he'll need a major hip surgery to keep playing
Gutsy Andy Murray fought to the end before losing an epic Australian Open farewell match 4-6, 4-6, 7-6, 7-6, 2-6 at the hands of Roberto Bautista Agut yesterday.
The Scot, who said he will retire this season because of chronic hip pain, seemed finished at two sets and a break down to the 22nd seeded Spaniard in the first round but somehow battled back to force a fifth set.
Love for Melbourne
"Amazing. That was incredible, thank you so much to everyone that came out tonight," the three-time Grand Slam champion said after being swept along on a wave of vociferous support. "Honestly I've loved playing here over the years. If this was my last match, an amazing way to end. I gave everything I had and it wasn't enough tonight."
Murray announced on Friday that he would retire at Wimbledon this year, but conceded the Australian Open could be his last tournament, so great have been his injury problems. But he seemed to have a change of heart after a match in which he showed his fighting spirit had not been diminished. "Maybe I'll see you again," he said, his voice cracking with emotion. "I'll do everything possible to try. If I want to go again I'll need to have a big operation which there's no guarantees I'll come back from. But I'll give it my best shot."
Roberto Bautista Agut
Murray had entered a raucous Melbourne Arena to a huge ovation as Scottish Saltires. The rollicking support lifted him and despite frequently grimacing with pain he moved relatively freely as the Spaniard took the opening set in 50 minutes.
The in-form Bautista Agut had beaten World No. 1 Novak Djokovic on his way to winning the Qatar Open at the start of the month and quickly took the second. Bautista Agut broke for 2-1 in the third and just as the end looked like it would come quickly, Murray had the crowd, including mum Judy and brother Jamie, back on their feet after a winner down the line to break back. "Right, let's go," Murray shouted and held to love with an searing ace to nudge ahead 3-2 before forcing a tiebreak which he took 7-5 with a scream of "come on" and a huge fist pump. Suddenly the comeback was on. The fourth set went with serve and Murray again proved the tie-break master. In the fifth set, Murray's resolve finally crumbled and the Spaniard took it 6-2. He will face unseeded Australian John Millman in the second round.
Big screen tribute
Murray was then shown a big screen tribute from a whole phalanx of top players, including Roger Federer, Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Caroline Wozniacki and Sloane Stephens. "I've been very fortunate - and unlucky - to compete in an era with all those great players around" Murray said. "To have the respect of your peers is a very special thing."
Ageless Roger Federer warmed up for a run at a record seventh title yesterday by breezing past Uzbek Denis Istomin in straight sets to book a spot in the second round.
The Swiss, 37, master made light of his assignment on Rod Laver Arena to wrap up the match 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 to begin the defence of his title.
Ruthless Rafa through
Earlier, Spaniard Rafael Nadal blazed into the second round with a 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 demolition of Australian James Duckworth. The 17-time Grand Slam champion will next play either Matthew Ebden of Australia or Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff.
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