By Ros Satar, in Melbourne

  • Roberto Bautista Agut [22] def. Andy Murray 6-4 6-4 6-7(5) 6-7(4) 6-2
  • Standing ovation as he talks about giving it is best shot after the inevitable operation
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – IF we have seen the last of Andy Murray, he went out with the same grit and determination as he has displayed throughout his career.

 

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Roberto Bautista Agut [22] def. Andy Murray 6-4 6-4 6-7(5) 6-7(4) 6-2

After the emotions of his pre-tournament press conference, the eulogising, the comedy best moments of Andy Murray and then his decision to take to the court, few would have thought that we would be watching a match go into its fourth hour as Murray forced a decider from two sets down.

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With the crowd very firmly behind him save for a small group of Spanish (and/or Roberto Bautista Agut) fans in a far corner, every point win met with rapturous applause, every miss with a stunned gasp.

And it is not as though Murray was not creating chances – his was the first break point earned in a competitive first set, but Bautista Agut went on to punish that by breaking in the next game and taking the first set to love.

Again it was unlucky for Murray, who every now and again threw brilliant slides, hops and turns to earn himself two more chances on the Spaniard’s serve, only to suffer a single break and lose the second set.

As many started to feel that at least Murray had acquitted himself well, the tide was starting to turn. This time when Murray was broken, he came right back at his foe, he saved break points later on and even had set points of his own.

Into a normal tie-break and it was Murray who swiftly built up the initiative, and although Bautista Agut threatened to draw level, Murray, egging the crowd on and fist-pumping like the days when he was just a gangly teen, wrapped up the third set.

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With family watching on, and into a fourth set you could see how much effort it was taking for Murray to be out there, but every point earned saw that flash of fire that we have been so used to seeing from the Brit.

Who would blink first in the fourth set, as there was nary a break point to be found. The answer was Bautista Agut, who once more found himself in a tie-break with the crowd firmly on the other side of the net, along with Murray.

By now though the limping between points was far more pronounced, and two successive breaks to give Bautista Agut a 4-1 lead seemed the hardest of mountains to climb. Walking out to serve to stay in the match, the tournament, and indeed in professional tennis, the crowd rose as one to give Murray a standing ovation. Saving a match point, Murray made Bautista Agut serve it out.

That he served out to love for a place in the second round is neither here nor there. If Bautista Agut’s post-match interview was not enough to get tears in the eyes, Mark Petchey’s wavering voice and Murray just about holding it together was a sure-fire tear-jerker, as was the tribute video, despite (one assumes in the heat of the moment) Murray saying he would have an operation and would do his best to come back!

The video showed just in what high regard he was held by his peers, as he watched largely impassively, just trying to take it all in.

On court, Murray said: “That was incredible. I’ve honestly loved playing here over the years, if this was my last match playing tennis it was an amazing way to end. It wasn’t enough tonight, congratulations to Roberto and his team.”

“I don’t really have anything else to say. Thank you to everyone here supporting me. 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 where there’s no guarantees. I’ll give it my best shot!”

The impact was evident as he hobbled into his press conference, where he clarified what he meant:

“I have basically like two options. One is to take the next four and a half months off, then build up [and] play Wimbledon. Though tonight was not comfortable in terms of my hip. At the end, I’m really struggling. I can’t walk properly at all just now.

“I could play another match, but if I want to try to play again, I want to improve my quality of life, because even if I take four months, I still can’t walk. I’m still in pain doing just basic day-to-day things.

“Having an operation like that, there’s absolutely no guarantees I’d be able to play again. I’m fully aware of that. It’s a really big operation. There’s no guarantees that you can come back from that.

“But there is the possibility, because guys have done it before. Bob Bryan is doing it just now. Some other athletes have given it a go. But, like I said, there’s no guarantees. That’s kind of the decision I have to make, that possibility of not having one more match by having the operation.”

Murray expects to make his decision within the next week.

 

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