MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Andy Murray evened his Australian Open match at a set apiece and stood in a nook of Margaret Court docket Enviornment together with his palms on his hips, staring up into the stands, the place spectators had been leaping and screaming, pumping their arms and waving blue-and-white Scottish flags.

All of these followers, and Murray himself, might have been excused in that second for pondering, “Right here we go once more!”

Besides there could be no five-set thriller this time for Murray and his many backers. No after-midnight end. No basic comeback. And no victory. No, the wear-and-tear of Murray’s two earlier endless, unyielding, performances merely took an excessive amount of out of his 35-year-old physique and metallic hip, leaving him with greater than a half-dozen blisters and an aching decrease again throughout a 6-1, 6-7 (7), 6-3, 6-4 loss to Roberto Bautista Agut within the third spherical Saturday evening.

“You’ll be able to’t at all times management the result. You’ll be able to’t management how properly you’re going to play or the outcome. You’ll be able to management the trouble that you just put into it, and I gave all the things that I had the final three matches. I’m very pleased with that,” stated Murray, a five-time finalist at Melbourne Park and the proprietor of three Grand Slam titles from elsewhere. “However, yeah, I’m additionally disenchanted.”

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This match ended a minute shy of three 1/2 hours, which appeared quite quick and candy when in comparison with Murray’s exhausting trek that took greater than 10 1/2 hours earlier within the week: He beat Thirteenth-seeded Matteo Berrettini in a five-setter within the first spherical on Tuesday, then eradicated Thanasi Kokkinakis in one other five-setter within the second spherical that started on Thursday evening and concluded somewhat after 4 a.m. on Friday.

Murray then slept from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., confirmed up on the event web site to get his blisters drained, and returned to his lodge for a nap, earlier than getting on courtroom to hit for simply quarter-hour or so.

He obtained off to a sluggish begin in opposition to Bautista Agut on Saturday, made a robust push to seize the second set, and light down the stretch. When the match was over, Murray was given fairly a send-off.

“At this time (there) was quite a bit love of for Andy,” the Twenty fourth-seeded Bautista Agut stated afterward. “I believe possibly subsequent spherical, somewhat bit extra for me.”

These two had performed six occasions beforehand, together with Bautista Agut’s win on the Australian Open in 2019, a yr after Murray had his first of two hip operations — and days after he tearfully acknowledged he thought he was on the verge of retirement.

After that loss to Bautista Agut, a video tribute to Murray was performed within the stadium, and he himself uttered the phrases, “If as we speak was my final match …”

Not a lot later got here Murray’s second process, this one to suit him with a man-made hip, and he ultimately returned to the tour.

Within the time since, he has puzzled aloud whether or not the work it takes to be aggressive now’s price it. After Saturday’s loss, he was requested how moments reminiscent of these this week make him really feel.

“I want to exit taking part in tennis like this, the place I’m competing with the perfect gamers on the earth within the greatest occasions and doing myself justice. There have been possibly occasions, the final yr or so, the place I didn’t actually really feel like I used to be taking part in properly, and I didn’t get pleasure from the best way that I used to be taking part in,” stated Murray, whose exit Saturday leaves Novak Djokovic because the lone main champion nonetheless within the males’s area.

At this Australian Open, although, he defined: “It’s extra pleasing for me once I’m taking part in like that, once I’m coming into a serious occasion and actually believing that I can do some injury.”

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