MELBOURNE– It was a blast from the past on the first night of the Australian Open. In front of a raucous crowd in Melbourne Arena, three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray demonstrated why he is revered and loved by so many. His long rallies were on full display. The uncanny persistence that makes him so tough to beat.
But this wasn’t any normal Andy Murray match. With the news before the tournament that his retirement is imminent, even as soon as after the Australian Open, it was clear he wanted to show the tennis world that he was not done just yet. Despite losing to Roberto Bautista Agut in five sets, the way Murray competed was reminiscent of the days he used to dominate on the tour.
“If this was my last match, it was an amazing way to end,” Murray said.
“I gave everything I had – it wasn’t enough tonight.”
Murray’s Defeat a Triumph for Tennis
In an era where three players (Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic) have a combined 41 Grand Slams, it puts into perspective how strong Andy Murray’s career resume is. Three Grand Slam victories, eight Grand Slam runners-up (including five at the Australian Open) and an Olympic Gold Medal highlight Murray’s hunger to win against tough competition. Even in the heat of the battle, it is these accomplishments and friendships that Murray will cherish well past his retirement from the game.
“Although we’ve been extremely competitive with each other, played in big matches, all of the Slams and Olympics, things like that, I do think there is like a genuine respect between all of those guys,” says Murray. “When we finish playing, we will remain friends. That’s important at the end of the day.”
But don’t think Andy Murray isn’t a fierce competitor. During his run that saw him win the Olympic Gold Medal, the US Open, and Wimbledon all within 52 weeks, he would punish opponents with his relentless defense and strong mental fortitude. This was on display during the match against Bautista Agut. After being down two sets and broken early in the third set, it appeared that the end was near for Murray. But the central dogma of Murray’s illustrious career was to never give up in the most adverse of moments. Murray’s tenacious defense and relentless durability came on full display, as he battled back to win two tiebreakers to force a fifth and deciding set.
In the final set, Murray was up 0-30, looking to break Bautista Agut’s serve and to put all the momentum on his side. But the Spaniard started to raise his game, ultimately holding serve and never looking back. He would seize the final set 6-1, amidst a sea of cheers and roars from the pro-Murray crowd.
” It was brilliant.” said Murray of the crowd.
“The atmosphere the whole match was amazing. I loved it. I’m really appreciative that the people gave me that atmosphere to play in.”
Murray Secured his Legacy
Time will tell if his 854th match against Roberto Bautista Agut will be Andy Murray’s final match. Murray will now decide whether it’s time to hang up the racquet, or try to be healthy enough so he could have a fairy tale conclusion at Wimbledon.
But if anything could be concluded from Monday’s epic match, it was that tennis benefited from the last few glimpses of greatness from a former champion. Despite the overwhelmingly grueling competition over the years, Murray as emerged as a fan favourite. The tribute video played after the Bautista Agut match, where Federer, Nadal and Djokovic each pay their respects to Murray, shows how much of an impact the Briton has made on the sport.
“I’ve been very fortunate to compete in an era with some of the guys that have been around like Rafa, Roger and Novak.
“We’ve had incredible battles and great matches. Tennis fans will remember us when we stop playing.
“To have respect of my peers is most important thing. It’s very nice they took time to do this.”
If there was a phrase that could summarize Murray’s last Australian Open match and legacy as a whole, it would be a phrase he used during his post match press conference.
“I tried my best.”
So simple, yet so meaningful for a player that will be impossible to replace for the future generation.
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