GAMEOVER

Andy Mur­ray may have played his fi­nal Mel­bourne ma­jor

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - SPORTS - —AP

MEL­BOURNE— Andy Mur­ray pulled a full house for what is likely his last match at the Aus­tralian Open, and had the ca­pac­ity crowd at Mel­bourne Arena in his cor­ner as he lost 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-2 to No. 22seeded Roberto Bautista Agut in the first round.

It wouldn’t have been a Mur­ray match without some kind of a strug­gle, and he didn’t dis­ap­point.

Limp­ing, stum­bling at times and emo­tion­ally-charged, the three-time ma­jor cham­pion ral­lied from two sets and a break down to ex­tend the match to a fifth set.

With fa­tigue and pain kick­ing in after spend­ing most of the last 18 months off the tour, Mur­ray dropped serve in the third and fifth games of the last set to give Bautista Agut the cush­ion he needed for vic­tory.

The for­mer No. 1-ranked Mur­ray reached the fi­nal here five times but never won the Aus­tralian ti­tle.

In a tear­ful news con­fer­ence last Fri­day, the 31-year-old Scot­tish player re­vealed his plans to re­tire at Wim­ble­don—if his sur­gi­cally-re­paired right hip can get him that far.

Roger Fed­erer, mean­while, se­cured his 95th win at Mel­bourne Park and 340th over­all at ma­jors with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over De­nis Is­tomin.

The Swiss de­fend­ing cham­pion and holder of a record 20 Grand Slams fired 14 aces and never faced a break point against the Uzbek.

Ear­lier, No. 2-seeded Rafael Nadal, who has missed a lot of ten­nis since last Sep­tem­ber, had a 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 win over Aus­tralian wild­card en­try James Duck­worth.

It was the Spa­niard’s first match back on Rod Laver Arena since he had to re­tire dur­ing his quar­ter­fi­nal match last year.

The 17-time ma­jor win­ner hasn’t played since re­tir­ing from his semi­fi­nal at the US Open be­cause of a knee in­jury, and then had surgery on his right an­kle in Novem­ber.

He also with­drew from a tune-up tour­na­ment in Bris­bane be­cause of a mus­cle strain in his thigh, mainly as a pre­cau­tion, to en­sure he’s fit for the sea­son-open­ing ma­jor.

“Not easy to come back after a lot of months of com­pe­ti­tion, es­pe­cially against a player play­ing su­per ag­gres­sive ev­ery shot,” Nadal said. “It’s very dif­fi­cult to start after an in­jury—I know it very well.

Nadal has lost only twice in the first round at Grand Slams—to Steve Dar­cis at 2013 Wim­ble­don and to Fer­nando Ver­dasco here in 2016.

Maria Shara­pova’s record in the first round is good, too. She was the first of five Aus­tralian Open win­ners to play on Rod Laver Arena on Day 1, start­ing with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Har­riet Dart. No. 2-ranked An­gelique Ker­ber, the 2016 Aus­tralian Open cham­pion, opened with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Polona Hercog and de­fend­ing cham­pion Caro­line Woz­ni­acki beat Ali­son Van Uyt­vanck 6-3, 6-4 in the first of the night matches.

Shara­pova has the sec­ondbest record (be­hind Ser­ena Wil­liams) among ac­tive women.

John Is­ner, the high­es­tranked man from the US at ninth, was ousted by Reilly Opelka, ranked just 97th, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (6), 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5).

Also ad­vanc­ing were 2017 US Open cham­pion Sloane Stephens, No. 9 Kiki Bertens, No. 11 Aryna Sa­balenka, lo­cal fa­vorite Ash Barty and No. 19 Caro­line Gar­cia.

—AP

Bri­tain’s Andy Mur­ray’s throws his racket in frus­tra­tion dur­ing his first-round match at the Aus­tralian Open.

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