Melbourne: Andy Murray’s hopes of a fairytale swansong at the Australian Open were crushed in the first round on Monday as Roberto Bautista Agut held off a thrilling fightback from the ailing Briton to claim a 6-4 6-4 6-7(5) 6-7(4) 6-2 epic.
Murray, who said he will retire this season because of chronic hip pain, seemed down and out at two sets and a break down to the 22nd seeded Spaniard but somehow fought back to force a fifth set at Melbourne Arena. His participation at the Wimbledon, where Murray is a two-time champion, is also under a cloud at the moment.
Though locked in a losing battle with his troublesome right hip, the former world number one whipped the Melbourne Arena crowd into a frenzy as he battled back from two sets down to push the match into a fifth.
“I’ve loved playing here over the years. It’s an amazing place to play tennis. If this was my last match then an amazing way to end. I gave everything I had. It wasn’t enough tonight,” said a tearful Murray as the giant TV screen on the court displayed a sequence of tributes to the Scotman from the likes of Roger Federer, Novak Djokoic and Caroline Wozniacki.
“Thanks again. Thanks to everyone for all of the support - my team, my family, and everyone who has contributed to my career.
“Maybe I’ll see you again. 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 guarantee I’ll be able to come back from anyway, but I’ll give it my best shot,” he said.
“I’ve been very fortunate and unlucky, I guess, to compete in an era with some of the guys that have been around. Roger, Rafa, Novak have been difficult opponents but I have a lot of respect for them,” he added.