One day Andy Murray will sit down with his children and tell them about what he used to do for a living.
‘I’ll just tell them that I played sport,’ said Murray in the wake of one more extraordinary match, potentially the last of his career.
Never before has his tendency towards understatement seemed more absurd. No British athlete has played sport like Murray, and his five-set defeat by Roberto Bautista Agut was perhaps a last, thrilling reminder of that fact.
Andy Murray sighs after losing a point during his Australian Open first-round match against Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut
This could well be the end for Murray, who has been hampered by an ongoing hip injury over the last year and beyond
The British tennis legend was clearly struggling with his long-term hip injury as he battled through the match in Melbourne
Murray stretches to reach a forehand, and there were glimpses of the former world No 1 at his best at stages of the match
Bautista Agut had never taken a set off Murray before their first-round match at this year’s Australian Open on Monday
There were times in the third set, particularly after breaking back to go 3-2 up, that Murray showed shades of his peak ability
The former world No 1 turns to the adoring crowd to celebrate after a winning point during his Australian Open first-round tie
Melodrama met melancholy on the Melbourne Arena court. The theatre was wonderful but it was tinged with sadness, because it cannot be known if we will again see the 31-year-old Scot produce the kind of bloody-minded brilliance that almost saw him pull off a great comeback.
Murray continued the theme later when he considered a match that spanned four hours and nine minutes.
‘If today was my last match, it was a brilliant way to finish,’ he said. ‘It was an amazing atmosphere. I literally gave everything that I had on the court, fought as best I could, and performed a lot better than I should have done with the amount I’ve been able to practise and train.’
It is only a shame that Sophia and Edie may not get the chance to see their father do his unique thing, and he acknowledged that. ‘I would like my daughters to come and watch me play a tennis match, hopefully understand what’s happening before I finish,’ he said. ‘But I’m aware that probably isn’t going to happen now. I’m a bit sad about that.’
Murray had hobbled in to do his media duties well past midnight, his evening’s exertions against a highly skilled opponent having already taken their toll.
The cheers of a crowd who seemed to have adopted him as an Australian for the night were still ringing in his ears, but this multi-layered and complex personality also chose the moment to open up on some regrets.
Murray sits in his chair, exhausted, following his four-hour-and-eight-minute epic against Spaniard Bautista Agut in Australia
The Brit takes the applause of the crowd after winning a hard-fought and emotional point in the third set of the match
There was still plenty of life left in Murray as he won back-to-back tie-breaks to take the match to a fifth and final set
Murray bites his fist in frustration after missing a return deep into the third set of his first-round defeat by Bautista Agut
Murray grimaces during the match, which he has previously admitted could well be his last due to ongoing injury problems
Murray’s brother Jamie and mum Judy were both front and centre to watch what could turn out to be his last ever match
Bautista Agut vs Murray
50 per cent (5/10)
72 per cent (23/32)
31 per cent (49/156)
191 kmph (119 mph)
1st Serve In
Break points won
Net points won
Receiving points won
20 per cent (1/5)
68 per cent (23/34)
23 per cent (34/147)
208 mph (129 mph)
Specifically he spoke about how he has got himself into his current physical state by training too hard and being, to an extent, his own worst enemy.
‘I would have been OK if I’d played a little bit less, taken a few more days off, spent a bit more time resting,’ he reflected. ‘Right now it’s something that frustrates me because of the situation I’m in and I wish I had done things a bit differently at times. I often didn’t stop myself when I was being told to do things.
‘I should have sometimes said, “No, I’m not doing that today, I don’t want to train today, I’m sore, I need a day off”. I didn’t do that. I would always kind of just go along with what I was being told. That was a mistake.’
This could have been a reference to Ivan Lendl, whose uncompromising methods helped bring great success, but at a long-term cost.
Nobody can know if or when Murray will be seen again on a tennis court, but if it does not happen, then this was a golden goodbye.
He was transformed from the anxious figure of last Thursday, whose public caning by Novak Djokovic in a practice match precipitated an emotional public outpouring the following day, when he announced he would be quitting at some point this year.
As darkness fell over Melbourne, the crowd was at capacity to watch Murray and Bautista battle it out at the Australian Open
The Brit takes a moment of rest against the advertising boards after sprinting to reach a return against his Spanish opponent
With the conditions sweltering in Melbourne, Australia, Murray needed to change his t-shirt during a break in play
The Australian crowd, not historically known to be the biggest Murray fans, were hugely in favour of the former world No 1
The two-time Wimbledon champion catches his racket after throwing it high into the Melbourne sky after a losing point
Murray tosses the ball up for a serve during his first-round match against the No 22 seed Bautista Agut on Monday evening
Murray revealed that he was much more relaxed yesterday than when sparring with Djokovic. ‘I was really nervous in the practice with Novak,’ he said. ‘I don’t know why exactly.
‘I know I’m not the same player I was. Also there’s a little bit of me that in every practice I’m holding back because I don’t want to hurt my hip more.
‘Today I knew it was potentially the last match I play. I don’t care if I damage my hip any more, so it’s a bit easier to deal with the pain because I know I don’t have to hit balls tomorrow. If I’m really sore, I’ve been dealing with it for a long time, and I’ll deal with it a few more days.’ It had looked, over the first two sets, like Murray would go relatively quietly against the flat-hitting Spaniard who has already won an ATP title this season, nine days ago in Qatar.
There was a full house in the stadium to watch Murray play in his Australian Open first-round match against Bautista Agut
‘There will only ever be one Andy Murray. Thanx for the memories’ read one homemade banner in the Australian crowd
With the pain clearly affecting him, Murray reaches to fire back a return to Bautista Agut during their fascinating match-up
There were shades of peak Murray during stages of the first-round match, including when he broke back in the third set
The tennis legend looks up to his team, including mum Judy and brother Jamie, to celebrate winning a hard-fought point
Mum Judy beamed with pride throughout, and appeared to have tears in her eyes as the match headed towards its conclusion
World No 24 Bautista Agut, who will go on to face Australian John Millman in the second round, leaps to return a shot
But then he broke back in the third set to ignite a crowd who had seemed to become more resigned to Murray’s fate than the man himself ever was.
Walking between points as if he had a stone in his shoe, he was still agile enough when running needed to be done, although the movement is still clearly compromised compared to when he topped the rankings.
He forced a tiebreak which was taken 7-5 after his opponent’s nerve crumbled and an easy volley was missed at 5-4.
Ever the perfectionist, Murray was seen getting frustrated with himself during a break between games at the Australian Open
No 22 seed Bautista Agut watches his serve fly over the net during his first-round victory against Murray at Melbourne Park
At times, the crowd were on their feet to celebrate Murray’s winning points, and he did not go down without a fight
Murray reaches a backhand return during his hard-fought, and at times emotional, battle against Bautista Agut on Monday
The Brit, hampered so much by an ongoing hip injury, screams with frustration as the second set begins to slip away
Judy Murray was there and so, unusually, was brother Jamie. The brothers are close but the leading doubles specialist likes to focus on his own business. They watched as Andy scampered around to force another tiebreak, which was claimed 7-4.
Murray had turned it into his kind of match, the kind of scurrying dogfight he enjoys and so excels in.
Bautista Agut was unravelling at 0-1 and 0-30 on serve in the decider, but the truth is that Murray then let him wriggle free with a series of marginal errors.
Murray looks up at the scoreboard during a break in play as he drinks iced water and dries himself off with a towel
Spaniard Bautista Agut could go down in history as Murray’s last ever opponent, in the first round at the 2019 Australian Open
Murray stares down the ball before hitting a rasping forehand back to Bautista Agut during their incredible first-round battle
He knew it and so did his opponent, who then forced successive breaks as the chuntering Scot succumbed to fatigue and frustration.
Murray’s problem is that, beyond injuries, he has not been able to play enough matches in the past 18 months, and when that happens you lose the habit of converting the biggest points. Afterwards there was a mildly awkward moment when, playing to the crowd, he talked bravely about perhaps trying to come back to play in Melbourne.
It was then that a pre-arranged video tribute was shown on the big screen. There was a finality to it which did not sit entirely comfortably, given that Murray still wants to keep his options open.
Perhaps he might even end up like that great Australian scrapper Lleyton Hewitt. He officially retired three years ago but cannot stay away, popping up in doubles events, including here in Melbourne this fortnight.
Murray is a similar tennis obsessive and you would not rule anything out. As shown again here so extravagantly, he is a one-off, almost impossible to second guess.
Plenty of fans had travelled across the globe from Scotland to Australia to watch their hero play in his potential last ever tie
Right at the back of the court, Murray stretches to return a forehand smash as the clock ticks past the two-hour mark
Spaniard Bautista Agut stretches as far as he possibly can to reach a return close to the net in his match against Murray