Bautista Agut Overcomes Murray In Five-Set Thriller
Spaniard improves to 6-0 this season
The 30-year-old Spaniard, who improves to 12-7 at Melbourne Park, fired 53 winners to overcome the five-time finalist after four hours and nine minutes. Bautista Agut improves to 6-0 this season, following his title run at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open (d. Berdych). In Doha, the World No. 23 beat Stan Wawrinka, Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych in consecutive matches to capture his ninth ATP Tour title.
Murray, who admitted the Australian Open may be the final tournament of his career, announced last Friday that he plans to retire during the 2019 ATP Tour season. Murray is aiming to end his career in front of home fans at Wimbledon in July, following struggles with right hip pain that caused him to undergo surgery last year.
The former World No. 1 was bidding to record his 49th Australian Open victory and claim sole ownership of fifth place on the list for most Australian Open match wins in the Open Era. Only Roger Federer (94), Novak Djokovic (61), Stefan Edberg and Rafael Nadal (56) have won more matches at the opening Grand Slam event of the season.
Having previously failed to earn a set in three FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings against Murray, Bautista Agut proved comfortable in extended baseline rallies against Murray. The Doha champion took his time constructing points from the back of the court, moving into the net at crucial moments in the first and second sets en route to a two-set lead.
In the third set, after falling behind a break of serve in the third game, Murray brought the crowd to its feet with an immediate reply after showcasing great variety in the forecourt. After failing to convert a set point at 4-5 (40/Ad), Murray eventually clinched the third set with great court coverage throughout the tie-break.
Murray battled hard in the fourth set, levelling the match after just over three and a half hours on his fourth set point in the tie-break. But Bautista Agut raced to victory in the deciding set, increasing the aggression on his forehand side to earn two service breaks and claim victory.
Rolex Paris Masters champion Karen Khachanov rallied from a set down to defeat Peter Gojowczyk 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3. The 10th seed won 85 per cent of first-serve points (50/59) and hit 39 winners to return to the second round. Last year, on his tournament debut, the Russian beat Peter Polansky in straight sets before a four-set loss to Juan Martin del Potro.
Khachanov will meet Yoshihito Nishioka for a place in the third round. The 23-year-old Japanese beat 2018 quarter-finalist and recently crowned ASB Classic champion Tennys Sandgren 6-4, 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-4.
Did You Know?
This is the fourth consecutive season in which Bautista Agut has won an ATP Tour title heading into the Australian Open.