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By Richard Pagliaro | Monday, January 14, 2019

 
Andy Murray

A gallant Andy Murray fought to the final ball falling to Roberto Bautista Agut in a five-set marathon in what may have been his final Grand Slam match at the Australian Open.

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve

Pouring every ounce of energy onto Margaret Court Arena, a gritty Andy Murray made one final stand in Melbourne.

Thousands of fans rose right along with him.

Watch: Nadal Calls Out Sleeping Journalist

In the waning stages of Roberto Bautista Agut's 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-2 Australian Open first-round win over Murray, the entire crowd—including mom Judy Murray and brother Jamie Murray—stood and showered the retiring Murray with a sustained ovation.

An emotional Murray responded waving his Head racquet in response.



A year after undergoing hip surgery in Melbourne, Murray was limping slightly at times, but competed with plenty of heart and desire and never stopped fighting in a pulsating match that popped with shot-making brilliance from both men.

Staring down a two-set deficit and a break in the third a dogged Murray roused himself and fueled an adrenaline rush in the 10,000 fans packed inside Margaret Court Arena. Murray won the third and fourth sets in tie breaks and was two points from a 2-0 lead in the decider. 

A defiant Bautista Agut refused to give in to the Scot or the roaring fans.

The former world No. 1 announced he's retiring due to severe hip pain and while Murray hopes to officially close the curtain on his brilliant career at home at Wimbledon, he concedes his battered body may not allow him to compete that long.

If indeed his 854th career match was Murray's final Grand Slam match, fittingly the five-time Australian Open finalist was a fighter to the finish.



The score showed Murray losing a five-setter, the sustained roar of the crowd spoke volumes for fans around the world who will always view Murray as a champion.

"Amazing," Murray told former coach Mark Petchey, who conducted the on-court interview. "I think I'm gonna be all right. That 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 I gave literally everything I had. It wasn't enough tonight. Congratulations to Roberto and his team. 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 is no guarantee I'll be able to come back but I'll give it my best shot. Thanks again. Cheers."

The 22nd-seeded Spaniard, who stopped three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and former Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych en route to the Doha title earlier this month, matched Murray's appetite for the fight reeling off six of the final seve game so close a four hour, nine minute marathon.

It was the 30-year-old baseliners first win in four career meetings with Murray and on this night Bautista Agut joined fans in celebrating the two-time Olympic gold-medal champion.

"Today was incredible night," Bautista Agut said. "Andy deserved this atmosphere Andy deserved all the people came to watch him. Well, it was unbelievable match, a really good fight. He's a tough opponent he gives everything to the last point and I want to congratulate him for all he did for tennis."

Bautista Agut moves on to a second-round clash with John Millman, the man who knocked Roger Federer out of the US Open last September, while Murray moves on to contemplate his future.

Turning his shoulders into his shots, Murray turned back time for a few hours tonight fighting through two tiebreak sets to level the match then taking his first lead in the decider.

Sometimes competitive fury is giving your best even while knowing your best may not nearly be enough.

Murray gave his all, but Bautista Agut gives nothing away for free.

Leading 1-0 in the decider—his first lead of the night— Murray lined up his trusty two-handed backhand poised to seize triple break point in a complete role reversal.

In a moment he will rue, the Scot overshot the mark crosscourt despite a vast expanse of open court. Bautista Agut seized the lifeline, battled back to hold then accelerated to put the former world No. 1 in the rear-view mirror.

Rifling a forehand down the line, the Doha champion banged out the break in the next game then streaked through a love hold for 3-1.

An increasingly hobbled and haunted Murray could not put that missed opportunity behind him. Patiently probing corner-to-corner, Bautista Agut earned the double break for 4-1.
Four hours into a fierce fight in what may be his final major match, fans stood and embraced Murray in an emotional ovation.

The impassioned three-time Grand Slam champion seemed to be pinching back tears as he waved his racquet to the crowd in acknowledgement.

Murray made one final stand withstanding a match point to hold for 2-5.

The Spaniard snapped off a smash for three more match points.



Firing one final forehand down the line to end it, Bautista Agut crossed the net to hug Murray as the Queen classic "We Are The Champions" blasted around the arena.

A video featuring tributes from Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer played over the big screen, while Murray scanned the crowd soaking it all in.

One final wave and he was off, but his night wasn't done.

The man who has given so much to the game stopped to give more signing autographs for fans before departing for what may well be the last time.

The body may be defeated, the heart always wins.

 

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