Tennis: Andy Murray beaten in five sets by Roberto Bautista Agut at Australian Open
Murray rallies from two sets down, but eventually goes down fighting in five to make first-round exit.
A brave Andy Murray fell in five thrilling sets to Spanish 22nd seed Roberto Bautista Agut at the Australian Open in what could potentially be the final match of his career.
The former world No 1 and three-time Grand Slam champion tearfully revealed last week severe pain from a hip injury was proving too much to bear and he planned to retire this year. He would like to finish at Wimbledon but admitted the opening major of the year in Melbourne could be his last tournament.
Bautista Agut may have drawn the curtain on Murray's glittering career where he has been a five-time finalist, winning a five-set marathon 6-4 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 on the Melbourne Arena.
"It was incredible, thank you so, so much to everyone that came out tonight. I've loved playing here over the years, it's an amazing place to play tennis. If this was my last match, an amazing match to end," said Murray during his on-court interview with his former coach Mark Petchey.
"I gave literally everything I had. It wasn't enough tonight so congratulations to Roberto and his team.
"I don't really have anything else to say but thanks to everyone, my team, my family, and everyone that's contributed to my tennis career.
"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, which there's no guarantee I'll be able to come back from, but I'll give it my best shot."
A huge roar greeted the arrival of the Scot as he prepared to take on Bautista Agut, who is known as one of the biggest competitors on tour and offered a formidable challenge having arrived in Australia after beating Novak Djokovic on his way to a ninth ATP Tour singles title in Doha.
He was ready to give Murray's hip a stern examination and he took his first-ever set off the Scot in four meetings with a single break of serve despite a gutsy opening by Murray, who was sending down serves at a good pace and moving reasonably well.
But Murray's ever-present limp was more in evidence midway through the second set as he fell behind after being broken in the fifth game, and with the world No 229 making too many errors Bautista Agut capitalized on his opponent's weaknesses to close out the set with an ace.
With Murray chuntering to himself as he gamely attempted to shorten the points he was still able to produce a couple of vintage points; breaking back in the fourth game and then moving 5-4 ahead, sending the arena into a state of ecstasy.
Murray's hopes hinged on a third-set tie-break, yet he continued to fight tooth and nail to conjure up two set points. Bautista Agut saved the first with a delicious volley but the Brit sealed it with a sumptuous drive volley before roaring in delight and defiance.
By now Murray seemed to be moving better than he was in the early stages and he kept pace in the fourth set, but another tie-break was required with little to choose between the two players. It was Murray who played some more awe-inspiring tennis to force the most unlikely of deciding sets.
The writing appeared to be on the wall for 31-year-old Murray who looked physically and emotionally spent by the time Bautista Agut broke through his defensive barriers to move 5-1 up.
With emotions running high a drained Murray was able to save one match point, but the Spaniard confirmed his exit in the next game after four hours and nine minutes.