Lion-hearted Murray exits Melbourne a hero
THIS time there were no tears but the 7500 fans at a near hysterical Melbourne Arena witness to Andy Murray's heroic, late night exit from the 2019 Australian Open will long remember the consummate sporting warrior.
Five times a losing singles finalist at Melbourne Park, Friday's announcement by the 31-year-old Scot that a long standing hip injury had left him no more than six months to compete at the top flight proved sadly prophetic. Yet he so nearly came through against Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut.
"I think I am going to be alright," Murray said on-court afterwards to stave off any possible sobs.
"I have loved playing here over the years. If this is my last match its an amazing way to end, I gave everything I had," he said.
"Maybe I'll see you again, I will do everything possible to try. If want to go on I will need to have a big operation, there are no guarantees."
He has not officially retired yet but it will be a cruel six months for everyone connected with Murray to see out his preferred retirement date of July at Wimbledon.
Twisting the knife Bautista Agut had the Scot increasingly scampering backwards and forwards in an unremarkable first two sets. Murray looked done but his head never dropped, true champions simply do not carry themselves that way.
It was a tough gig for Murray, the Spaniard is the form man of 2019, dispatching Australian Open champions Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka to clinch the Qatar Open just 10 days ago.
Like his opponent, he comes with a history of nagging injuries but is obdurate and knew this was a chance not to be missed. But the Scot was having none of it, his third and fourth set wins - each on a tie-break - must have drawn on every resource, physical and emotional he possessed
Nothing was certain, even when serving for the fourth set, Murray was nonplussed by a burst of fireworks next door at the MCG. It only added to the drama.
Mum Judy and mother Jamie, Murray's most loyal supporters, looked understandably on edge throughout yet fiercely proud. They have every right to be.
Thirty-one-years-old and currently ranked 230 is not ideal but $61 million in prize winnings and three grand slams, Olympic and Davis Cup gold is the true measure of Murray. Ultimately, this 6/4, 6/4, 6/7, 6/7, 6/2 loss is neither here nor there.
Britain's best ever tennis player? Probably. Britain's best ever sportsman? Maybe.
He has been that good.