Andy Murray was the story of the day at the Australian Open. The soon-to-be-retired Scot played his final match in Melbourne Monday night and in typical Murray fashion, he gave it all he had but just came up short in a tough loss to Doha champion Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(4), 6-2.
“Andy deserve all the people who came to watch him,” Bautista Agut told the crowd. “It was unbelievable match. Really good fight. He’s a tough fighter, tough opponent, he gave everything until the last point.”
Murray had never lost a set to the Spaniard, but hobbled by a bad right hip, the odds were not is his favor tonight, and early on, that’s how it went.
Murray played well, much better than he showed in his practice sets last week, but Bautista Agut was rock-solid during the first two hours, dominating off the forehand and winning virtually all of the extended rallies.
Up two sets and with a break, the end was nearing for Murray. That’s when Bautista Agut blinked, got tight and the 10,000-strong crowd in Melbourne Arena got back into it and pushed Murray to a third set tiebreak win.
To the delight of the fans, Murray began moving slightly better while Bautista Agut started to miss more and more in the fourth. And when Murray forced a fifth, it looked like another signature Murray comeback was in store.
But the run fizzled out. With Bautista Agut serving 0-1, 0-30, Murray missed a line and from there the Spaniard seized control and took the match in over four hours.
“I’ve honestly loved playing here over the years. It’s an amazing place to play tennis. If this was my last match, amazing way to end,” Murray said on court, leaving the door slightly open for a return.
“I gave literally everything I had. It wasn’t enough tonight.”
While Murray was fighting, Roger Federer cruised past Denis Istomin 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. The 37-year-old Federer is trying to win a seventh Australian Open. He’s now won 15 straight in Melbourne.
“I think I brought good energy, good shots, and I was solid overall,” Federer said. “Denis made it tough – he serves well and is a good ball-striker. I’m just really happy to be as healthy and playing as well as I am after another great run last year. It’s just a thrill to be back.”
Earlier in the day, Rafael Nadal dropped serve twice but got through pesky James Duckworth 6-4, 6-3, 7-5.
Nadal, who was playing in his first official tour match since the US Open, showed some rust against the lowly-ranked Duckworth. Nadal fell behind 2-0 in the second and then had his new-look serve broken at love when serving it out at 5-3 in the third.
“When I get broken was not because of the serve,” Nadal said. “I played against a super aggressive player. Today he went on court with the determination to don’t play tennis the way that, you know, I understand tennis. He went on court, you know – is not a negative point. Not at all. Believe me. He went on court probably doing a thing that works well for him, and he gives him some chances.
“And he played smart and he played well. When you play against a player that he wants to hit all the shots, of course you can have breaks against, because you are sometimes in his hands.
“But anyway, my serve worked well. I don’t know my percentage, but was a lot of good positions after the first serve. I felt solid with the second. And in general terms I am happy about the victory of today against, as I said before, a very difficult opponent to play.”
2018 finalist Marin Cilic made his season debut a good one, easing past Bernard Tomic. While Tomic and Duckworth lost, 19-year-old Australian Alex de Minaur thrilled the locals extending his win streak to six after beating Portuguese journeyman Pedro Sousa 6-4, 7-5, 6-4.
“I’m feeling stoked,” said De Minaur who has won his last 13 sets. “Happy to be able to get away with a win today. It was pretty hot out there, but I thought I managed the conditions really well. Happy to get through in straight sets.”
Grigor Dimitrov made a strong Grand Slam debut with Andre Agassi, overcoming a set down to deny the returning Janko Tisparevic 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4.
“I’m just a better person, period,” Dimitrov said of Agassi. “On a daily basis, I have learned something new from him.
“I think he also keeps me on point, keeps me on check. He’s just trying to remind you of the good things in life. Of course on the court when we are together, we are really zoomed in, very focused. He’s super intense on the court. We are all like, I mean, on the same page.
“That’s really important. But, I mean, the biggest thing that stands out is that I’m learning something every single day.”
The big upset on the day was a battle of big countrymen with 21-year-old Reilly Opelka withstanding 47 aces from John Isner to beat the veteran in four tiebreakers.
The 6-foot-11 Opelka, who had never previously won a Slam match, smacked 40 aces of his own.
“It’s a big win, yeah, but it’s not like a breakthrough win,” Opelka said. “I’m still barely top 100 so I still have a lot of progress I feel like has to be done, to improve, to continue to get my ranking up.
“Physically, just being healthier, being stronger, just making sure my body doesn’t break down during the year.”
Isner has now lost his last six matches.
Stefanos Tsitsipas was a tough winner over Matteo Berrettini while Tomas Berdych continued his comeback pounding 2018 semifinalist Kyle Edmund.
On Tuesday, 6-time champion Novak Djokovic will be in action against American Mitchell Kruger. Alexander Zverev faces Aljaz Bedene and in the headliner of the schedule, Nick Kyrgios collides with Milos Raonic.
TUESDAY AUSTRALIAN OPEN SCHEDULE
Rod Laver Arena
D. Aiava(WC) v M. Keys(17)
T. Maria v S. Williams(16)
A. Zverev(4) v A. Bedene
From 7:00pm AEDT
N. Djokovic(1) v M. Krueger(Q)
N. Osaka(4) v M. Linette
Margaret Court Arena
From 11:00am AEDT
K. Majchrzak(Q) v K. Nishikori(8)
T. Zidansek v D. Gavrilova
V. Williams v M. Buzarnescu(25)
From 7:00pm AEDT
S. Halep(1) v K. Kanepi
B. Paire v D. Thiem(7)
From 11:00am AEDT
K. Muchova(Q) v Ka. Pliskova(7)
B. Coric(11) v S. Darcis
L. Siegemund v V. Azarenka
S. Stosur v D. Yastremska
Not before 7:00pm AEDT
N. Kyrgios v M. Raonic(16)
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