Andy Murray’s epic Australian Open run ended with a third-round defeat at the hands of Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut on Saturday.
The Scot was back at the scene of his late-night heroics against Thanasi Kokkinakis, having done his best to recover from the five-hour and 45-minute marathon, where he came back from two sets down to claim victory at 4.05am local time .
Coupled with a near five-hour first-round win over Matteo Berrettini, Murray had spent 10 hours and 34 minutes on court just making it through to the last 32.
To begin with it appeared he would offer little resistance but he willed himself into the match and improbably took the second set before Spaniard Bautista Agut claimed a 6-1 6-7 (7-9) 6-3 6-4 victory after three hours and 29 minutes.
Murray vs Bautista Agut: Match Stats
|murray||match stats||Bautista Agut|
|61%||1st serve win percentage||79%|
|49%||2nd serve win percentage||68%|
|25/41||Net points won||29/41|
|103||Total points won||142|
“Always playing Andy is very tough,” said Bautista Agut, who will next face Tommy Paul.
“He knows very well how to play a Grand Slam match. I am happy with how I handled the nerves and tension through the match, to play good tennis.”
The contest also came four years after Murray tearfully revealed the extent of his hip pain and that he was considering retiring ahead of a first-round clash with Bautista Agut in Melbourne.
The 35-year-old Scot won just one of the first 15 points before getting on the board in the fourth game and Bautista Agut wrapped up the opening set in only 29 minutes.
Murray was quickly down a break in the second as well but he dug in to keep it at that and, willed on by a crowd featuring plenty of Scottish saltires, began to make some headway.
Unexpectedly, Bautista Agut gave the break back to make it 4-4, and Murray battled to stay on terms, saving a break point in the 11th game with a brilliant backhand pass.
Bautista Agut led 5-2 and 6-4 in the tie-break but Murray again would not let go, getting back on level terms and then forcing two set points, of which he took the second.
Murray stood statuesque, soaking up the adulation of the fans who now fully believed they might be witnessing something very special.
But Bautista Agut managed to shut out the noise in the third set, finally breaking through to lead 5-3, and an early break for Murray in the fourth proved a false dawn.
Coupled with a loss for Dan Evans to Andrey Rublev earlier, that is now the end of the British challenge in singles for another year at Melbourne Park.
Evans was overpowered by fifth seed Andrey Rublev in a comprehensive straight sets defeat.
The Briton had lived up to his 25th seeding by reaching the third round and went into the match as the underdog, but had reason to believe he could cause an upset having won three of his six previous clashes with Rublev.
However, the Russian crunched 60 winners compared with only 22 unforced errors in a quality display to win 6-4 6-2 6-3.
Evans’ generosity gives Rublev a boost
After the first nine games went with serve, Rublev asked a ball boy for some bananas to give him a boost of energy.
Overhearing, Evans threw one of his bananas to his opponent, who promptly broke serve in the next game to take the opening set and did not look back.
“He actually asked for four bananas, and I quite like him, so I shared with him,” said Evans. “They only brought two, so I donated (one) so he could have one.”
Rublev smiled when asked about it in his post-match interview, saying: “He helped me with some energy for sure. I won an extra two games because I ate a banana.”
It was a seventh meeting between Evans and Rublev, who had shared six close matches prior to this first Grand Slam encounter.
“It was just a nice and fun moment between us,” added Rublev. “We have a great relationship between each other. We played great matches.
“I think we played quite a lot already, and he won some matches and I won some matches. But I won the last one now. Next time he will need to take revenge.”
Long trip to Bogota for Evans
Evans must now make the long trip from Melbourne to Bogota for Britain’s Davis Cup play-off against Colombia in a fortnight.
He will join Cameron Norrie and Jack Draper in the team, with Neal Skupski and Joe Salisbury’s participation potentially dependent on how far they progress in doubles at Melbourne Park.
Although Britain have the higher-ranked players by a distance, the conditions will strongly favor the home team, with the tie being played on clay and with pressure-less balls to counter the effects of altitude.
Evans expects it to be very tough, saying: “I’ve played in altitude in Guadalajara, and I was rubbish. Then I asked somebody, ‘Is that similar?’ And they were like, ‘No, that’s hardly anything compared to (Bogota)’. So, I mean, God knows. It’s an experience, I guess.
“I think it’s important that the best players can get out there and represent your country. You don’t know how long you’ve got. I might not be on the team next year. We’ve got some good players coming.”