Andy Murray loses what could be his last ever match in breath-taking Australian Open first round

Bautista Agut clinched a breath-taking 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (4-7), 6-2 victory to reach the second round

Jack de Menezes
Monday 14 January 2019 13:05 GMT
Andy Murray after Australian Open loss: 'maybe I'll see you again'

Andy Murray produced one of the performances of his career, but after more than four hours and with an injured hip that will inevitably end his career at some point this year, he exited the Australian Open in the first round at the hands of 22nd seed Roberto Bautista Agut.

It looked to be a straight-forward victory for the Spaniard as he surged into a two-set lead, but Murray is not a three-time Grand Slam champion for nothing and he supremely levelled the match despite hobbling around the court from the get-go.

However, in the end his hip injury just took too much out of him, and Bautista Agut clinched a breath-taking 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (4-7), 2-6 victory to reach the second round where he'll face Australia's John Millman.

From the off, all eyes were on Murray's movement as he looked to cope the debilitating hip injury that is set to end his career at some point this year, but while at times the pain was obvious to see, he was still making a good fist of it.

Yet the ability for Bautista Agut to pressure Murray and get him on the run made it comfortable for the Spaniard, and the world No 23 only needed one break point to seize the advantage and take the first set 6-4.

The second set was much of the same, although the break came early and when Murray earned one of his own, the opportunity slipped. At 6-4, 6-4, the inevitable looked on the cards for Murray in what looked to be his final set.

But a career built on resilience and grit was epitomised in an incredible third set, where having been broken early, Murray immediately broke back and took the set to a tiebreak where he clinched it 7-5 to the delight of the partisan crowd.

Suddenly, the player who won back-to-back Olympic titles was in full flow, and while he was having to nurse his injured hip, he was very much in the ascendancy. This time, there would be no break of serve, but it was one-way traffic as Murray surged into a 6-1 lead before clinching the fourth-set tiebreak 7-4.

But the impact of that exertion of energy took its toll on Murray, and the fifth set saw the match flip on its head once more, with Bautista Agut reeling off consecutive breaks of serve to end Murray's challenge and, what would be no surprise, his career.

Murray fought back from nowhere to level the match
Murray fought back from nowhere to level the match (EPA)

The emotion afterwards was obvious to hear in Murray’s voice, with the 2012 and 2016 Olympic champion knowing that to continue his career beyond Wimbledon, he will need to undergo serious surgery on his hip that will not guarantee his ability to play in the future. However, he joked that the pain was not that bad and he’ll be fine to continue, before thanking those inside and out of the Hisense Arena.

“Amazing. I'm actually going to be alright,” joked Murray, before getting serious. “That was incredible. Thank you so, so much to everyone who came out tonight. I've honestly loved playing here over the years. If that was my last match it was a perfect way to end, I gave everything I had but congratulations to Roberto and his team.

“I don't really have anything else to say. 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 to come back but I'll give it my best shot. Thank you.”

Bautista Agut refused to give up and took the fifth set 6-2
Bautista Agut refused to give up and took the fifth set 6-2 (EPA)

His short speech was followed by a montage of tributes recorded with his biggest rivals and friends, including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, and Murray admitted that while he could hang up the racket with three Grand Slams, two Wimbledon title and two Olympic titles to his name, it was the respect of his opponents that meant the most to him.

“I've been very fortunate in many ways and lucky to compete against some of the guys who've been around. Roger, Rafa, Novak, those guys have been brilliant.

“To have the respect of your peers is the most important thing, so that was nice to see.

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