ANDY MURRAY may well have played the final match of his tennis career as he bowed out of the Australian Open in the first round in the only way he knows how: battling until the very end.
There were emotional scenes when the former world No1 was potentially sent into retirement as Australia bid farewell to a legend of the sport – but boy did Murray put on a show.
Andy Murray’s tennis career may be over after defeat at the Australian OpenAFP or licensorsThe former world No1 was beaten by Spanish 22nd seed Roberto Bautista Agut in MelbourneAFP or licensorsHis valiant 6-4 6-4 6-7 6-7 6-2 defeat in Melbourne to Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut could signal the end of a tremendous career.
But the scoreline, almost irrelevant today, still does not tell half the story – Murray looked dead and buried two sets and a break down but fought back with that dogged spirit we have become accustomed to over the years.
In the end, though, he did not quite have enough as the Spanish 22nd seed who played the villain by dashing the dreams of Murray and just about everyone inside the Melbourne Arena.
Teary-eyed Murray was supported by legions of Scottish fans who had travelled across the world for maybe one final glimpse of Britain’s greatest sportsman.
It could well be the end of Murray’s brilliant career and it would not be the way he wanted to go outReutersThere were emotional scenes as the Scottish star battled for every single point despite his clear painReutersThe 31-year-old is quitting tennis this year due to constant pain from a troublesome hip injury, which has plagued him for the last 18 months.
His plan is to try and carry on until Wimbledon but there are fears he might even call it a day sooner given the daily agony he faces.
When he does hang up his racquet, he will be considered Britain’s greatest tennis star with his three Grand Slams titles, two Olympic gold medals, the Davis Cup triumph and, in 2016, a place on top of the world rankings.
All of that, and so much more, have cemented his legendary status in the game despite playing in an era with the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
Mum Judy and brother Jamie were in the crowd to witness the match, which lasted more than three hoursGetty Images – GettyMurray was backed by heavy support in the Melbourne Arena and he certainly did them proudReuters
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Even the injury, which he had surgery for 12 months ago, couldn’t stop him playing his part in an all-time classic match.
He huffed and he puffed, desperate to fight for every single point and came so close to defying the odds – even by Murray’s standards this was something special.
It all looked to have got away from him but he forced a tie-break in the third set – buoyed on by the vocal crowd inside the Melbourne Arena – and came through it to force a fourth.
The roar from Andy. The cheer from the crowd. The glimmer of hope.
After a promising start, he struggled with his movement due to his ongoing hip problemsGetty Images – GettyThe crowd gave him a tremendous reception when he walked out on to courtGetty Images – GettyThe trademark roar Murray let out when he clinched the third set was full of passionGetty Images – GettySurely he couldn’t come back from two sets down with a failing hip and win. Surely…
And then the unthinkable. Another tie-break. A chance to level the match at two sets apiece.
Murray sailed into a 5-1 lead at the changeover and clinched the fourth set when Bautista Agut netted.
But ultimately it did indeed prove a step too far. An early break in the fifth for the Spaniard got him back on track and Murray struggled to hold his serve, finally succumbing after more than four hours of brutal, gruelling tennis.
The frustration was clear to see as Murray simply could not compete as he would have wanted toAP:Associated Press
His hip was simply not quite up to the task -despite the rush of adrenaline – and if that is indeed the end of a brilliant career, Sir Andy Murray can leave with his head hold high both for his performance today and throughout his career.
Would we have expected anything less?
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by – thesun.co.uk/sport