We came for a memorial service. We got a celebration. The capacity crowd on Melbourne Arena relished the sight of Andy Murray - in what is likely to be his final professional match, even if he kept his options open in the aftermath - performing one of his patented comebacks.

It was not enough. It was never likely to be enough against Roberto Bautista Agut, the sort of smooth and light-footed player he would have hoped to avoid in the draw.

Even those with a passing interest in tennis will probably remember the moment at Wimbledon in 2005 when a gangling 18-year-old extended the former finalist David Nalbandian to five sets, before eventually collapsing in a welter of cramps.

Fourteen years later, it ended in pain once again, but not before Murray had the chance to show off a sort of greatest-hits compilation of his on-court tics. The bicep-bulging fist pump. The sarcastic "Great shot, Andy" after a key miss. The roared "Let's go!" after a big hit. The glare at the idiot punter who calls out during his service action. And of course the infamous backchat towards the support staff in his player box.


The choice of Melbourne Arena for this match was probably Murray's own, for he always loved playing here. The seats are not individually ticketed, but open to anyone with a ground pass, so it is forever People's Monday. And today there were perhaps 20 Murray maniacs for every naysayer.

When Murray dinked a little backhand winner at the end of one crazy rally, he received a standing ovation. If Bautista Agut produced a similarly sparkling winner, the crowd observed a minute's silent mourning.

There is a poignancy about this whole story - as if it were time for us all to wake up from a pleasant dream about a Scotsman who became a multiple grand slam champion.

Andy Murray waves to the crowd after his first round loss to Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut. Photo / AP
Andy Murray waves to the crowd after his first round loss to Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut. Photo / AP

But there was so much here to prompt nostalgic reverie. Murray's best shot was always his backhand up the line, and he produced a classic example at 4-4 in the third set to fend off a break point. This was vintage Murray - as was the way he seized the set, firing an angry drive volley into the open court, and then letting out an extended howl. He has always been one to rage against the dying of the light.

A different opponent might have been dragged into the emotion of the occasion. But Bautista Agut often behaves as if he might be an early example of an AI sportsman. He was among the men most perfectly equipped to eject Murray from this tournament. Great tactician though he is, Murray could find no way of upsetting Bautista Agut's rhythm.

Still, what a contrast with Thursday's outing against Novak Djokovic - a practice match which unfolded in huge discomfort, prompting Murray to announce his imminent retirement. He was still physically restricted, of course, and this became more and more obvious as the match wore on. For the first three sets, the only real evidence lay in a couple of awkward hops after his service action. It was only in the fourth that you began to see him walking like a duck with haemorrhoids.

But the competitor in him would not let the match go, and he levelled at two sets all. Even the impassive Bautista Agut was beginning to tremble in fear. It was mind over matter, until the matter finally rebelled. From 1-0 up in the decider, the next five games tumbled away from him like playing cards in the wind.

There was a huge outpouring of emotion as Murray prepared for what was almost certainly the final service game of his professional career with the score standing at 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 5-1 to Bautista Agut. Tears were flowing from Murray's face as the crowd stood again to applaud him. He won the game then lost the match a few minutes later. But it was a farewell to remind everyone of his fighting qualities and ball-striking talent. Andy Murray, we will miss you.


Hip wrecked by too much training

Andy Murray reacts during his first round match against Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut. Photo / AP
Andy Murray reacts during his first round match against Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut. Photo / AP

Andy Murray will decide in the next week whether to have the major hip operation that could potentially end his playing career.

After a thrilling five-set defeat at the hands of Roberto Bautista Agut, Murray acknowledged that he may never play again, admitting that over-training during his career may have contributed to his physical issues. But he is still holding out hope of a miraculous 11th-hour solution.

"I have two options," Murray said. "One is to take the next four and a half months off, then build up and play Wimbledon. [The other is] a really big operation. There's no guarantees that you can come back from that.

"But there is the possibility, because guys have done it before. I'll probably decide in the next week or so. But this might be my last match. If I go ahead with the operation, and I don't recover well from it, then I don't play again. It will improve my quality of life. I'll be in less pain doing normal things like walking around and putting shoes and socks on.

"But if today was my last match, look, it was a brilliant way to finish. That's something that I'll probably take into consideration as well. I literally gave everything I had on court, fought as best as I could and performed a lot better than what I should have done with the amount I've been able to practise and train. Tonight was the most special match that I've played [in Australia].

"I knew it was potentially the last match I play. I don't care if I damage my hip any more."

When Murray was asked if he regretted training so hard throughout his career, he strongly agreed. "For sure 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. Right now, it's something that frustrates me because of the situation I'm in, and I wish I had done things a little bit differently. I should have sometimes said, 'No, I'm not doing that today.' I would always go along with what I was being told. That was a mistake."

There was also a poignant postscript when he was asked how he would tell his two daughters what he had achieved in his career. "I would like my daughters to come and watch me play a tennis match and hopefully understand what's happening before I finish. But I'm aware that probably isn't going to happen now. I'm a bit sad about that."