Australian Open: Andy Murray expects defeat in first-round clash with Roberto Bautista Agut

The Independent

Andy Murray admits that it will be a difficult experience to walk on to court on Monday for his opening match in the Australian Open knowing that it could be the last appearance of his career.

“I know most likely I’m going to lose in the first round,” Murray said as he looked ahead to taking on Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut in the Melbourne Arena, which is the third of the main show courts here. Their meeting is the fourth match on the schedule and will not start before 6pm (7am GMT).

Murray, nevertheless, has had to grow used to having limited expectations. The surgery that he had 12 months ago on his injured right hip has failed to relieve the physical pain he has been suffering, which in turn has made him feel that he has no chance of rescaling his former heights.

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The twice Wimbledon champion and former world No 1 revealed during a tearful press conference here on Friday that he had decided to retire this year. Having set a target last month of making Wimbledon his farewell tournament, he admitted that the Australian Open might now be his last appearance.

“Lots of things have been weird,” Murray said as he contemplated the prospecting of going into what could be the last match of his career. “The US Open was quite odd last year because I was in a lot of pain and I knew I had no chance of winning the tournament.

“Most likely I’m going to lose in the first round here and I’m not happy about that, but because of the way the last six months of competing has gone, I know that I could win. I know that it’s likely that I won’t and it’s going to be uncomfortable.

“If it is my last match I want to try and enjoy it and enjoy the whole experience. That is maybe something during my career that I’ve not done because I’ve always been focused on tactics and winning and finding a way and that’s the most important thing.

“Whereas coming in here it feels very different for me. I was saying to my team: because I’m not practising anywhere near as much as I used to because I can’t, if I have bad practice I can’t just go back on the practice court and work on my serve or my movement or whatever I’m not happy with. I can’t do that any more.”

Murray has had hip problems for several years, but he has never recovered from the injury he suffered in the semi-finals of the 2017 French Open. Following a six-month break after he limped out of Wimbledon that summer, Murray had hip surgery in January last year. He eventually began his comeback in June, but played only 12 matches before calling an early end to his season.

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The prospect of finishing his career is clearly painful. “I know that will be difficult,” Murray said. “I love tennis. I love playing the game. Because I’ve been in pain for a long time, it’s not as simple as: ‘My pain started at the French Open, I’ve never had hip pain before.’

“I’d been in pain for quite a long time beforehand but was managing it and was able to play, so I was thinking: ‘If my hip gets better and improves I’ll be able to go back to competing.’ That is something I had also discussed with many experts and specialists.

“But it didn’t get to that point, and because of when I had the surgery and what I was told about the surgery and the timings of when things can be beneficial, I was like: ‘Well I need to wait it out a bit and see.’ Obviously it didn’t help enough.”

Murray said that he had been thinking about retiring for a while but for the moment had no interest in doing anything else.

“Once I’d started thinking about stopping and it was a possibility that I wasn’t going to be playing much longer, all of the things that I thought that I would quite like to do, I have zero interest in doing right now,” he said. “I have no motivation to do anything else just now.

“This [playing tennis] is what I want to do. Thinking about what I do when I finish playing and rushing into decisions with that – from speaking to psychologists and stuff – is kind of the worst thing I should be doing.

“It’s going to take time for me to deal with it and I need a bit of time to get over it and then know what my next steps are going to be or what I do after tennis.”

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