Andy Murray’s grueling Australian Open ended with a loss to Bautista Agata.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Andy Murray leveled his Australian Open match at one set apiece and stood with his hands on his hips in a corner of Margaret Court Arena, staring into the stands as spectators jumped. and were shouting, pumping their arms. and waving the blue and white Scottish flag.

All those fans, and Murray himself, could have been excused in that moment for thinking, “Here we go again!”

Except for Murray and his many supporters, there will be no five-set thriller this time around. Not over after midnight. No classic returns. And no victory. no. He lost to Roberto Bautista Agut 6-1, 6-7 (7), 6-3, 6-4 in the third round on Saturday night.

“You can’t always control the outcome. You can’t control how well you’re going to play or the outcome. You can control the effort you put into it, and I did all that. “I’ve had the last three matches. I’m very proud of that,” said Murray, a five-time finalist at Melbourne Park and owner of three Grand Slam titles elsewhere. “But, yes, I’m disappointed too. “

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The match clocked in at a minute shy of 3 1/2 hours, which seemed a lot shorter and sweeter than Murray’s grueling trek that took more than 10 1/2 hours earlier in the week: ousted 13th seed Matteo Beratini in five-setters in the first round on Tuesday, then Thanasi Kokkinakis in a five-setter in the second round that started Thursday night and ended shortly after 4 a.m. Friday.

Murray then slept from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., showed up at the tournament venue to drain his blisters, and returned to his hotel for a nap, before only coming on court for 15 minutes or so. .

He got off to a slow start against Bautista Agut on Saturday, made a strong push to take the second set, and swept down the stretch. When the match ended, Murray was given quite the day off.

“Today (there was) a lot of love for Andy,” 24th-seeded Bautista Agut said afterward. “I think maybe next round, a little bit more for me.”

The two have played six times before, including Bautista Agut’s win at the Australian Open in 2019, a year after Murray had the first of two hip operations – and days after he tearfully admitted that he thought That he is on the verge of retirement.

After that loss to Bautista Agut, a video tribute was shown at the stadium, with Murray himself saying, “If today was my last match…”

Murray had a second procedure not long after, this one to fit him with an artificial hip, and he was finally back on tour.

In the time since, he’s wondered aloud whether the work it takes to be competitive is worth it. After Saturday’s loss, he was asked how moments like this week make him feel.

“I’d like to go play tennis like this, where I’m competing with the best players in the world at the biggest events and doing myself justice. There were probably times, in the last year or so, where I “I didn’t really feel like I was playing well, and I didn’t enjoy the way I was playing,” said Murray, whose exit on Saturday leaves Novak Djokovic alone. Still the main champion in the men’s field.

At the Australian Open, however, he explained: “It’s more enjoyable for me when I’m playing like this, when I’m coming into a big event and really believe I can do some damage. “

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