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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Matt Majendie

Andy Murray hints at Australian Open farewell after flat first-round exit

Andy Murray warned that he may have played his last ever Australian Open after only the second first-round exit in 16 years at the event.

The only previous time he had lost in the opening round of the Australian Open, it looked to be an emotional farewell to the tournament and professional tennis ahead of surgery.

Five years on from what proved a false farewell, and now with a metal hip, he admitted there is every reason to believe today might be his Melbourne finale.

"It's a definite possibility that will be the last time I play here," he said. "I think probably because of how the match went and everything.

"It was a poor performance. It was very, very flat. I don't know exactly why that was the case, because I've been feeling good going in. Bizarre feeling on the court today."

The 36-year-old had drawn the toughest first-round opponent of the British players in action Down Under in world No30 Tomas Martin Etcheverry, but this was still a flat, almost joyless display from him.

And the manner of this 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 loss — his fourth in a row since October — did little to lift the mood of Murray. As he left the court, he gave a long wave, taking in all four corners of the Show Court Arena.

"It's a definite possibility that will be the last time I play here"

Andy Murray

Like against Thanasi Kokkinakis in Melbourne a year ago, the Briton found himself two sets to love down. No player in the men's game has come back from such a position to win more than Murray — 11 times, in fact — but there was to be no great escape on this occasion.

The five-time Australian Open finalist had matched his Argentinian opponent closely in the opening set but, after that, his game seemed to escape him. His serve was ineffective, he was undone by unforced errors and his movement looked limited at times, leading to question marks over his fitness.

Murray was broken in his opening service game, but broke straight back in a tight first set, which finally swung in Etcheverry's favour when he broke after 50 minutes to go 4-3 ahead when a Murray forehand limply found the net. Early breaks again went against Murray in the next two sets, but on neither occasion could he fight his way back into the contest.

Following the second set, he took a timeout for a brief pep talk with coach Mark Hilton, but it did little to alter the malaise. And it quickly became clear that the Melbourne crowd were not set to watch a Murray comeback late into the night, as had been the case against Kokkinakis a year ago.

In all, Murray hit 37 unforced errors, almost more than double that of his opponent. The pair had played each other twice over three sets last season, both lasting in excess of three hours. This was all over in two-and-a-half.

Murray could contemplate retirement after a disappointing run of form (Getty Images)

Five British players are in action at the Australian Open tomorrow, headed by Emma Raducanu, making her first Grand Slam appearance in a year. Katie Boulter is the only other British woman left in the main draw. Like Raducanu and Boulter, the British trio of Jack Draper, Cameron Norrie and Dan Evans all have winnable first-round matches.

Elsewhere, one of the pre-event favourites, Coco Gauff, won comfortably 6-3, 6-0 over Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, but Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova was an early, high-profile casualty, as she suffered a heavy 6-1, 6-2 defeat against Dayana Yastremska.

Ukrainian qualifier Yastremska had to bounce back from the recent news her grandmother's house had been hit in a Russian rocket attack.

"When I was in Brisbane, before the match I was told a rocket arrived on my grandmother's house," she said. "It was hard to play. We need to remember about the war and give as much support to Ukraine as possible."

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