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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Monday, January 15, 2024

Parting can be painful.

An emotional Andy Murray conceded his 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 defeat to No. 30-seeded Tomas Martin Etcheverry in the Australian Open first round was more than a quick exit, it was likely the end of an era.

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Five-time AO finalist Murray said this was “probably” his final farewell to the Australian Open ending a brilliant run of 16 Melbourne Park appearances.

“I mean, definitely. Definitely a possibility,” Murray replied when asked if this was his final AO match. “Yeah, it's a definite possibility that will be the last time I play here. And yeah, I think probably because of how the match went and everything, I don't know.

“Whilst you're playing the match, you're obviously trying to control your emotions, focus on the points and everything. When you're one point away from the end, you're like, I can't believe this is over so quickly, and like this. Yeah, in comparison to the matches that I played here last year, it's the complete opposite feeling walking off the court. Yeah, wish I involved the crowd more. Just disappointed with the way I played and all of that stuff, so... Yeah, tough, tough way to finish.”

Former world No. 1 Murray electrified Melbourne fans with magical comebacks at the 2023 AO.

Facing a dire two-set deficit, Murray roared back to deliver a comeback for the ages on Margaret Court Arena last year.

Showing fierce appetite for the fight, Murray staged his second straight five-set stand conquering Australian Open doubles champion Thanasi Kokkinakis 4-6, 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-3, 7-5 in an epic five hour, 45 minute victory. That came one round after he battled by Matteo Berrettini in five sets.

Age can't diminish Murray's devotion to the game, but after multiple hip surgeries the two-time Wimbledon winner could not summon the energy necessary to trouble the 24-year-old Argentinian baseliner.

In his prime, Murray owned a sniper return. Today, he managed to convert one of five break points as Etcheverry served 71 percent and pumped 11 aces against no double faults.

Murray said when he tried digging deep he came up empty today.

“Yeah, it was a poor performance. It was, like, very, very flat,” Murray said. “IIt was an amazing crowd out there that were... Yeah, I felt like they were trying to pick me up, support and get behind me. Usually I would always engage the crowd and get them going and bring some energy into the match.

“It was, yeah, really just a flat performance. I don't know exactly why that was the case because I've been feeling good going in. Played pretty well in Brisbane. Practiced really well the last 10 days or so. Don't know.”

After pouring his emotional intensity into 985 career matches, the 36-year-old Murray is two wins shy of scoring his 500th career hard-court victory.

This loss hurts Murray more because it chips away his belief he can lift his level.

“I also know, like, what good tennis is. I've, yeah, played well before,” Murray said. “I know in the last week, 10 days, how well I was playing against the best players in the world. That's why it's so frustrating that on the match court, yeah, it's not there.

“I mean, I've been telling myself that at some stage it will. But obviously when you have performances like today, or a batch of results over a period of time like I have done, it's tough to keep believing in that.”

Photo credit: Andy Cheung/Getty