Andy Murray battled but eventually suffered a first-round exit to No. 22 seed Roberto Bautista Agut in Melbourne on Monday. Murray lost 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-2 in what could be his final appearance at the Australian Open.
The three-time Grand Slam champion, who announced he plans to retire this season as a result of an 18-month fight with a hip injury, was visibly struggling with his hip throughout but rallied to save the match by winning tiebreaks in the third and fourth sets.
With the match approaching four hours, Bautista Agut secured successive breaks in the decider to take a commanding 5-1 lead. Murray received a standing ovation as he came out to serve. He then saved match point, much to the delight of the crowd, before he held with an ace.
But there was no way back for Murray this time, as Bautista Agut won the next four points to conclude an extraordinary match.
Speaking on court afterward, Murray did not say that he would definitely retire, indicating he could try to have another hip operation in an effort to prolong his career.
"I've loved playing here over the years," Murray said. "If that was my last match, it's an amazing way to end. I gave everything I had, it wasn't good enough tonight, so congratulations to Roberto.
"Maybe I'll see you again. I'll do everything possible to try. If I want to go again, I would need to have to have a big operation, which there are no guarantees I will be able to come back from anyway. But I'll give it my best shot."
Murray, a five-time finalist at the Australian Open, came under pressure in the fifth game of the opener, but it took until the ninth game of the first set for Bautista Agut to find the break. Murray hit the net with a low forehand following a 16-shot rally before Bautista Agut held to love to edge in front.
Murray was unable to convert two break-point opportunities early in the second set and quickly looked to struggle. Although he remained competitive, the Scot began to hobble in between points as Bautista Agut broke again in the fifth game.
The writing looked to be on the wall for Murray early in the third after another early break from the Spaniard, but the 31-year-old fought to break back in the following game.
Murray continued to serve well -- he would finish the match with 19 aces -- but came under further pressure at 4-4 in the third. A break point down at 30-40, Murray hit two winners into the corner to seal the hold.
Murray then had a set point at 5-4, which he momentarily thought he had won after Bautista Agut looked to have double-faulted. The players exchanged holds to set up the third-set tiebreak, which Murray sealed with a forehand volley.
In a tight fourth set that saw few break-point opportunities, Murray was forced to fight from 0-30 down in the sixth game to hold as both players remained strong on their serve. Murray arguably produced his best tennis of the match in the following tiebreak, eventually converting his fourth set point to level the tie.
The fifth set proved to be Murray's final stand, and the crowd rose to honor the Scot's effort as he waved goodbye to the Australian Open for what could be the final time.
Although this was Murray's first exit from a first round of a major since the 2008 Australian Open, it was the first time he had played for over four hours since the semifinals of the French in 2017. The world No. 1 played just 13 matches during an injury-hit 2018.