Gritty Andy Murray fights to the end at Australian Open
Defending champion Federer cruised into the second round with a 6-3 6-4 6-4 win over Uzbek Denis Istomin
Melbourne — Five-time finalist Andy Murray fell in a five-set thriller against Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut in the opening round of the Australian Open on Monday, while top contenders Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal recorded comfortable victories.
Struggling with a chronic hip injury, three-time Grand Slam champion Murray had the Melbourne crowd roaring when he came back from two sets down before losing 6-4 6-4 6-7(5) 6-7(4) 6-2 in a little more than four hours.
“If this was my last match, it was an amazing way to end,” the 31-year-old Scot said. “I gave everything I had — it wasn’t enough tonight.”
In an emotional news conference on Friday, Murray said the Australian Open could be his last tournament, but after the match he left ajar the door for a return in 2020.
“If I want to go again, I’ll need to have a big operation, which there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to come back from anyway, but I’ll give it my best shot,” he said.
He would decide on further surgery that could end his career “within a week”.
Defending champion Federer cruised into the second round with a 6-3 6-4 6-4 win over Uzbek Denis Istomin. “I’m very happy with my first round, to be honest,” Federer said. “It ’s been great. I felt the ball really good.”
Federer won the last two tournaments at Melbourne Park in a late career resurgence and is angling for a 21st Major victory. His achievements put him on par with six-time winners Novak Djokovic and Roy Emerson. Nadal, 17 times a Grand Slam winner, powered past local hope James Duckworth 6-4 6-3 7-5 to kickstart his campaign. American John Isner became the first top-10 player to bite the dust, stunned by compatriot Reilly Opelka 7-6(4) 7-6(6) 6-7(4) 7-6(5).
The victory was world No 97 Opelka’s first in the main draw of a Grand Slam. Meanwhile, Caroline Wozniacki started her title defence with a 6-3 6-4 win over Belgian Alison van Uytvanck. World No 2 Angelique Kerber moved into the second round beating Slovenia’s Polona Hercog 6-2 6-2. Maria Sharapova raced past
British qualifier Harriet Dart 6-0 6-0.