Andy Murray’s hopes of starring in a fairy tale at the Australian Open were demolished on Monday in the first round, when Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut defeated the Briton 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (7-5), 6-7 (4-7) and 6-2 in an intense match.
Murray, the winner of three Grand Slam titles and two Olympic gold medals in singles, announced last week that he could retire from tennis after the Australian Open for the severe pain he suffers in his right hip.
The Scot lifted his racket to greet the crowd before his last service, but his fans could not prevent Bautista Agut closed shortly after the match and ended the fierce resistance of Murray after four hours and nine minutes of intense battle.
“Honestly, I loved playing here over the years… if this was my last game… it’s an incredible way to end. I literally said everything I had,” Murray said in an interview on the court.
Previously, Rafael Nadal showed no signs of muscle problems in his victory by 6-4, 6-3 and 7-5 over local James Duckworth.
The second pre-qualified had withdrawn from the Brisbane Open a few days ago, raising questions about his participation in the first Grand Slam of the season.
“It’s normal that the first games are difficult, but… every day I feel better, more confident,” Nadal told reporters, whose 2018 season ended early following surgery to an ankle and an abdominal injury.
“This is an important victory because it’s the first victory in a while and at the same time… it gives me the chance to be on the court again. And that’s what I need,” he added.
The former world number one will face Australian Matthew Ebden, who defeated Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 and 6-4.
Another favorite to advance to the next round was Swiss defending champion Roger Federer, who defeated Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
The winner of 20 Grand Slam tournaments will face for a place in the third round British Dan Evans, 189 of the world ranking, who beat Japan’s Tatsuma Ito by 7-5, 6-1 and 7-6 (10-8).
As for the South Americans, the day was uneven. Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman and Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas advanced to the second round, but Argentina’s Federico Delbonis and Guido Andreozzi bid farewell to the tournament early.
Schwartzman, head of series 18, beat German Rudolf Molleker 6-1, 6-3, 4-6 and 6-0, while Cuevas defeated Serbian Dusan Lajovic 6-4, 7-5 and 6-1. In contrast, Delbonis fell to British John Millman in four sets and Andreozzi was also defeated in four sets by Italian Stefano Travaglia.