Melbourne: A battling Andy Murray bowed out of the Australian Open at the first hurdle Monday, but it was business as usual for ruthless Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal who joined Caroline Wozniacki in round two. The Scottish five-time Melbourne Park finalist gave it everything he had and showed glimpses of the form that won him three Grand Slams, but his ailing body let him down during a gutsy 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-7 (4/7) defeat to 22nd seed Roberto Bautista Agut.
Murray tearfully revealed before the tournament that he was in constant agony from a hip injury and planned to retire this year. The 31-year-old hopes to end his career at Wimbledon, but has admitted the Australian Open could be his last event, unless he has a late change of heart. “Amazing. That was incredible, thank you so, so much to everyone that came out tonight,” he said after being given a rapturous send-off.
While his tournament ended in despair, Swiss master Federer, six years older than Murray, continued his march towards a record seventh Australian Open title. He swept past Uzbek Denis Istomin 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 said he was in “disbelief” that he was the double defending champion at his age and vowed to give his all to make it three in a row.
“I’m going to try everything possible (to win again) and leave it all on the court,” said the world number three. His long-time rival Nadal, who cut short his 2018 season to have surgery on a foot injury, showed no mercy to Australian wildcard James Duckworth in his opening round clash.
The 17-time Grand Slam winner cruised through 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 and said it was an important victory. “Not easy to come back after a lot of months, especially against a player playing super aggressive on every point,” said the 2009 Australian champion, who showed no sign of any injury worries. “
The energy I feel in this place is fantastic.” The second seed is bidding to become the first man in the Open era, and only the third in history along with Roy Emerson and Rod Laver, to win each Grand Slam on two or more occasions. Fifth seed Kevin Anderson progressed, as did NextGen Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas. But ninth seed John Isner became the first top seed to crash out.
World number three Wozniacki, who made her Grand Slam breakthrough in Melbourne last year, opened her defence with a convincing 6-3, 6-4 win over Belgium’s Alison van Uytvanck.