Andy Murray at the Melbourne Arena on Monday night. Photo / Ben Solomon / Tennis Australia
On any other day, Andy Murray would have cruised through the early rounds of the Australian Open with that magnificent performance against 22nd – seeded Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain. Murray lost a thriller in five sets 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-2. The first round match was worthy of a final.
I found myself watching scintillating tennis between the former world number one and the 22nd seed Bautista Agut. Such quality matches are usually reserved for the Round of sixteen and the finals.
But now Murray, 31, is knocked out of the first Open of the year and likely to have enforced his early retirement plans.
At two sets down he looked down and out against the precision of Bautista Agut. Then Murray clawed his way back winning the third and fourth sets in a tie-break to level at 2-2.
He was superb and sublime all at once. The trademark ground strokes and baseline game was simply outstanding. But it was not enough against the Spanish who last week defeated Novak Djokovic, who is the number one seed in Melbourne, in the Qatar Open final – no less.
Bautista Agut won the final set 6-2. Murray was spent and the injured hip was all too evident a liability in the end. It affected his speed around the court and at times decision making at crucial times. The great Scot became a tragic hero to a full house at Melbourne Arena and millions watching on television on Monday night. All eyes and voice were on him for a miracle comeback that just slipped through his grasp.
Andy Murray on his way to losing a first round thriller against Roberto Bautista Agut. Photos / Ben Solomon / Tennis Australia
Murray, who hasn’t played a lot of tennis in the last two years resulting in him missing ATP tournaments and points, came into the tournament ranked 230.
He was given a wildcard to the tournament but not seeded. It meant his first round match in Melbourne was going to be against a seeded player. There was to be no luxury of easing through the early rounds.
It also meant Murray who is still recovering from hip surgery and with very little tennis under his belt had to bring his A game for the first round. He did and it almost worked.
He will now contemplate his future. The hip will not stand any further scrutiny of a physical sport. There was talk of a farewell appearance in Wimbledon in July but that may be too far a stretch.
In the pre-game Presser Murray said the hip wasn’t doing well.
"I can still play, but not to a level I'm happy playing at," he said.
“The pain is too much really.”
“I tried everything to get it right but it hasn’t worked.”
His own friends in the circuit are advising him to retire now and not wait for Wimbledon. If he does it will be a sad day for men’s tennis.
Andy Murray facts
3 Grand Slam titles (Wimbledon 2013, 2016; US Open 2012)
2 Olympic Gold medals (London, Rio)
First British man to win Wimbledon in 77 years
Won 45 ATP Tour titles
First pro male to employ a Female coach – Amelie Mauresmo (2014-16)
Career Prize money $61 million (US)
SAMOA EVENTS / JAN / 2019