Andy Murray may have played his final Melbourne major
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.
Britain’s Andy Murray’s throws his racket in frustration during his first-round match at the Australian Open.