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Australian Open 2019: Gutsy Andy Murray bows out in five-set epic

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Australian Open 2019: Gutsy Andy Murray bows out in five-set epic

By Sam McClure

Roberto Bautista Agut d Andy Murray 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 6-2

The meaning of “going out with a bang” may well have been re-defined.

As of late Monday night, the sporting dictionary should point to the first round exit of world number 230 Andy Murray in the 2019 Australian Open.

The match had everything. Five sets, a comeback, a one-sided crowd, long rallies, big winners, controversial challenges, the odd dummy spat from Murray himself and even a few fireworks as well. Not in the contest. Literally, fireworks from the cricket at the MCG stopped play momentarily.

But if this is indeed the last time we see Andy Murray in a competetive tennis match, then it will be a memorable one, albeit a loss.

Immediately following the 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 6-2 loss to 22nd seed Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut, an emotional Murray reflected on his illustrious career, although refused to absolutely confirm that this was his last Australian Open appearance.

"Maybe I’ll see you again, I’ll do everything possible to try," Murray said on court straight after the match.

"It was incredible, thank you so much to everyone who came out tonight.

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"I’ve loved playing here over the years, if this was my last match it was an amazing way to end. I literally gave everything I had."

Murray will take the next week to decide whether to have major surgery on his hip, to not only prolong his tennis career but also improve his quality of life.

The Brit once again opened up about the gravity of the pain that he’s been dealing with, making his epic five-setter even more impressive.

"Going to walk my dogs or playing football with my friends is like the worst thing I can think of doing. I hate it necause it’s so sore and umcomfortable," Murray said in his media conference in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
"I just don’t know yet but look, if today was my last match, it was a brilliant way to finish. And that’s something that I’ll take into consideration as well. I’d be OK with that being my last match.”

A reflective Murray spent some of his media conference expressing regret for training too hard during his career and putting too much stress on his body.

The 31-year-old has endured a constant struggle with injury, with chronic hip issues his most recent problem.
Murray admits he would have done things differently if he had his time again, after being asked about his brutal training standards.

"It’s a difficult one because once you start training a certain way and you have success doing in that way, it’s easy to think that that’s what’s giving you success," he said.

"But for sure I would’ve been OK if I had played a bit less and taken a few more days off and spent a bit more time resting.

"I didn’t stop myself when I was being told to do things. I should’ve said I’m not doing that today or I’m sore and I need a day off. I didn’t do that I would always go along with what I was being told and that was a mistake."

Earlier, things had begun well for Murray, who was unlucky not to break the serve of Bautista Agut in the eighth game of the opening set.

But the Spaniard wasted no time riding his luck, breaking Murray in the very next game after a loose unforced error from the Brit.

A beautifully executed drop-shot from Bautista Agut in the next game prompted a racquet change from Murray, but it was too little too late to save the first set, which the Spaniard won 6-4.

Rallies seemed to get tougher for Murray in the second set. He was broken early and barely had a chance to break-back, several times looking up at his players’ box as he winced through the pain of his troublesome hip.

The match seemed to be heading in only one direction when Bautista Agut broke the Murray serve in the third game of the third set.

In typical Murray fashion, the Brit miraculously ran down a perfectly placed drop shot, only to see the Spaniard match him with a stunning clip back across him.

Murray went on to be broken to love and the crowd fell silent. It felt like the end was nigh.

And yet Murray, as he has done for much of his career, proved the doubters wrong. He immediately broke back and found a second wind.

He had his first set point at 5-4 and would have won it if not for the intervention of the chair umpire, who overruled a double fault call from the lines person.

The Brit pushed Bautista Agut to a breaker where he was on top from the start with an early double mini-break.

It was third time lucky for Murray, who blew two set points before an overhead smash had the crowd on its feet and Murray pumping both fists. He was back in the match.

The fourth set was just as tight as the previous three, with Murray’s possible retirement not overshadowing the often scintillating tennis that both players were exhibiting.

Despite his lack of conditioning, Murray continued to run down balls that even he in his prime would have been proud of, while Bautista Agut seemed to rise to every challenge, matching Murray for class and finesse.

With no break of serves, the pair once again faced off in a breaker, and once again Murray streamed ahead early.

With the psychological advantage, Murray set up four set points and although he needed two to settle his nerves, it was again third time lucky. But this time, Murray wasn’t just back in the match, he was arguably in front in what had become a war of atrition.

But as it often happens in big comebacks, particularly for those returning from injury, too many tickets had been spent.

Murray had a small window at 1-0 up in the fifth and 0-30, but that's when the Spaniard kicked into gear. He hit two brutal winners to even the ledger and he never looked back.

After holding serve to make it 1-1, he then broke and consolidated to love and suddenly it was 3-1. 4-1. The Scot was now wounded. William Wallace without his shield and with nothing left to throw at King Edward.

As he walked out to serve at 1-5, Murray took a moment to acknowledge the crowd, for what is all but certainly the last time.

He held serve, his final gift to Melbourne Park.

But for once, he ran out of gas. Bautista Agut served out the match but it will be Murray who the crowd remembers on what will prove to be a momentous night.

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