Andy Murray ran out of gas and miracles to follow his longest win with a brave but painful defeat at the Australian Open. The former world No. 1 limped back out into the Margaret Court Arena to a hero’s reception only 39 hours after his 4.05am victory in the second round.
And the stiff Scot with the metal hip won only one point in the first 15 as he lost the first set to Roberto Bautista Agut.
The amazing support of the crowd and his own sheer willpower saw him save two set points and level the match by winning the second set tiebreak.
Even when the incredible Murray, 35, could hardly move after points he still brought the fans to their feet with his winners and fistpumps. Instead of getting dragged into long rallies, the double Olympic champion tried to shorten points with drop shots and sneak approaches to the net before whipping up the crowd to give him more support.
But after playing two five-set matches lasting over ten hours in the first two rounds, Murray had no more left to give as he went down 6-1 6-7 6-3 6-4 in three hours and 29 minutes to the No.24 seed.
The Spaniard is a nice guy and a solid player but he must have felt like the Man who shot Bambi for a second time by ending the Scot’s story in the third round.
Bautista Agut also beat Murray in five sets here in 2019 after the three-time Major champion had revealed his career was coming to an end. This time there was no video tribute celebrating his achievements at the end of the match but they could have shown lots of highlights of other Murray thriller under the lights.
Jamie Murray had warned his brother’s body was in a “complete mess” and he felt he had a “hangover” after his late-night victory over Thanasi Kokkinakis in the early hours of Friday morning.
And Laura Robson had revealed her fellow former British No.1 had struggled to sleep because he had taken supplements and energy drinks to get through the longest match of his career.
And No.24 seed Bautista Agut looked to take advantage by playing the ball from corner to corner as he took an early 3-0. It took Murray 12 minutes to win his first point on serve and 17 minutes to record his first game before giving the first of many fistpumps to the crowd. . The first set was all over after only 29 minutes. His worst ever Grand Slam defeat – he has twice gone out of the French Open while winning only six games – loomed.
At the start of the second set, Murray contemplated smashing his racket in frustration but only scraped the court as he gave up two break points at 1-1. He then served up a double fault – and a swear word – to give away the break.
At 2-4 down, he stopped play for a ballboy to pick up an insect on court before he broke the Spaniard to love to level the scores at 4-4 He saved a break point at 5-5 with an outrageous running backhand pass and then saved two sets poins in the tiebreak. After the second to bring the score to 6-6, he whipped up the crowd and then after winning the next point, shrugged to them as if he did this every day. He took his second set point to win the tiebreak 9-7 with RBA hit a forehand into the net. The second set last 78 minutes and the Spaniard won more points (45 to 43).
At 3-3 in the third set, Murray took a towel to wipe up bird poo off the baseline – “I’ll do it” he told a staff member – but still slipped behind when he hit a tired forehand into the net for the crucial break.
Murray broke to lead 2-0 at the start of the fourth set but gave it back by sending forehand long on RBA’s second break point in the next game.
RBA broke at 4-4 when Murray sent a backhand long. And the 2019 quarter-finalist here completed his fourth consecutive win over the Scot by taking his first match point when Murray hit a service return into the net.