|Place: Melbourne Park Dates: January 16-29|
|coverage: Commentary every day from 07:00 BST on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra ‘Tennis Breakfast’ live from Melbourne, with selected live text commentary and match reports on the BBC Sport website and app|
Andy Murray crashed out of the Australian Open after eventually losing to Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in a gritty display as he struggled to move.
Murray, the former world number one, finished his match in the second round at four o’clock in the morning on Friday and returned to the court after 39 hours, losing 6-1, 6-7 (7-9), 6-3, 6-4.
The 35-year-old Scotsman, who underwent career-threatening hip surgery in 2019, was the latest Briton to fall in singles.
Earlier on Saturday, Dan Evans lost 6-4 6-2 6-3 to fifth seed Andrei Rublev.
Murray left it all on the court before succumbing to the man who famously defeated him at the 2019 Australian Open in what the three-time Grand Slam champion feared would be the final match of his career.
Two weeks later, Murray underwent a hip resurfacing procedure that he thought he would never be able to come back from – but four years later he returned to Melbourne aiming to reach the fourth round at a major for the first time since Wimbledon in 2017.
Murray said he had “a lot of mixed feelings” after losing to 34-year-old Bautista Agut.
“I feel like I gave everything I had for this event so I’m proud of that,” he added.
“That’s really, in everything you do, all you can do. You can’t always control the outcome. You can’t control how well you play or the score.
“You can control the effort I put into it, and I’ve given it my all in the last three games.”
It’s a step too far even for Murray
Since Murray beat Australian Thansi Kokkinakis in a five-set thriller that ended in what he described as “farce” The question was: How will he recover physically to face 24th seed Bautista Agut?
Murray, ranked 66th in the world, needed five hours and 45 minutes to defeat Kokkinakis in the longest match of his eventful career.
It was indeed an extraordinary effort – especially for an aging player with a metal lump in his hip – after he needed nearly five hours to beat Italian 13th seed Matteo Berrettini in the opening round.
“I slept from six to nine in the morning, I was playing kookkinakis, and that’s clearly not enough,” Murray said.
Then I had to go in [to Melbourne Park] And I had about seven or eight blisters that I had to pop.
“My feet weren’t feeling very well. My legs were actually fine, but I was struggling with my lower back. It was affecting my serve.
“That was really the main thing I was struggling with.”
The signs weren’t good from the start.
The five-time qualifier seemed to steadily agonize after the points, treading gingerly as Bautista Agut finished off the opening set in just 29 minutes.
When the Spaniard, an anti-puncture player, moved a break in the second set, it looked like it was going to be a short night.
But Murray, as he has so often in the past, refused to accept that he was being beaten.
The British number four began moving more freely, at least through the points, and fought back to take the set to a tie-break.
There, he again needed his fighting spirit. Murray trailed 5–2, but with the support of the crowd behind him, pulled away two set points for Bautista Agut before leveling the match with a second set point.
A tight third set – as Murray continued to produce some stunning shots but was bent on pain between points – held serve until finally stumbling to help Bautista Agut break in the eighth game.
Despite struggling to serve, Murray broke to lead 2-0 in the fourth set but Bautista Agut remained patient and broke 5-4 before walking out of the match.
An enthusiastic celebration from the mild-mannered Bautista Agut indicated the depth he had to dig to bid farewell to the brave Murray, who received a standing ovation as he walked off the field.
“Playing with Andy in slams is always very difficult, he knows the game very well,” said 2019 quarter-finalist Bautista Agut, who plays American Tommy Ball in the round of 16.
“I am very happy with the way I dealt with all the nerves and tension during the match. I played good tennis and I am happy to win.”
He beat Evans Rublev after sharing a banana
He outlasted 25th seed Evans Rublev, who scored 60 wins on 22 unforced errors in a solid display.
And he will face the young Russian Danish and ninth seed Holger Rohn in an attempt to reach the quarter-finals in Melbourne for the first time.
“Andre was very good. He played some good tennis,” said the 32-year-old Englishman.
“I didn’t feel like I missed too much. I had a little chance at the start when I had a pit stop, but I didn’t take it.
“He was very aggressive and got the better of me.”
Evans has won three of his previous six meetings with the 25-year-old Russian, but all of these have been from three sets.
The second-seeded Briton, who reached the fourth round in Melbourne in 2017, started well against Rublev, creating a break opportunity to lead 4-3 in the first set.
However, Rublev saved it and broke to close the set, before doubling down on his aggressiveness to win the next two sets in solid fashion.
“I’m not stupid, I know it’s three out of five and a completely different match than two out of three,” Evans said.
“That also gave me a lot of confidence that he’s going to have to win three. It obviously didn’t work out that way.”
Rublev thanked Evans after the match for giving him a banana during the changeup.
“I asked the ball boy, but Danny had asked for bananas earlier and he had two, so he just said ‘take it,’ and I grabbed it,” said Rublev.
“It definitely helped me with some energy. I had more because I ate the banana.”