Andy Murray out despite heroic effort against Roberto Bautista Agut
Andy Murray produced a performance that belied his physical limitations but ultimately lost to Roberto Bautista Agut, going down 6-4 6-4 6-7(5) 6-7(4) 6-2.
The 31-year-old fought back from two sets and a break down to force a decider but Bautista Agut managed to hold his nerve to seal his spot in round two, where he will face home hope John Millman.
Hip surgery a year ago has left the three-time Grand Slam champion in severe pain and Murray, 31, said last week that the year's first Grand Slam could be his last tournament.
However, the five-time Australian Open finalist showed remarkable levels of tenacity to push his dogged opponent all the way in a performance that defied the hip injury that looks set to cut his career short. Murray's resilient display was roared on by the Melbourne crowd on an emotionally-charged night.
In Bautista Agut, Murray found himself drawn against a player with remarkable levels of endurance, and ultimately, after a wobble, the Spaniard’s superior mobility paid dividends after a match that lasted four hours and 14 minutes.
Afterwards a visibly emotional Murray thanked a packed Melbourne Arena but left the door ajar for another improbable comeback.
“It [the atmosphere] was incredible, thank you so, so much to everyone who came out tonight.
“I’ve honestly loved playing here over the years, it’s an amazing place to play tennis.
" If this was my last match it’s an amazing way to end it – I gave it everything."
“Maybe I’ll see you again – I'll do everything possible to try but I'll have to have a big operation that there’s no guarantee I can come back from,” added Murray.
“But I’ll give it my best shot.”
There were periods of vintage Murray against the world number 24 Bautista Agut and the double Olympic gold medalist sent their match to a fifth and deciding set as his opponent wilted, losing sets three and four on tie-breaks as the Brit, cheered on a by a boisterous crowd, built momentum.
Ultimately, though, an improbable comeback was beyond Murray’s grasp, going down in five sets to Bautista Agut, who broke the serve of Murray twice in a one-sided final set.
With additional reporting from agencies