Former world number one Andy Murray has lost his first round Australian Open tie in a five-set thriller – a match that could prove to be his last as a professional.
Murray was beaten by Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut in Melbourne days after announcing this will be his last season on tour.
He was 2-0 down as the pair headed into the third set, with most expecting the Briton to crash out, before coming back to claim the third and fourth in tie-breaks.
But he was defeated 6-2 in the final set, broken in games three and five.
Although Murray intends to retire at Wimbledon, the 31-year-old said there was a chance the Australian Open could be his last tournament.
Murray has been battling a severe hip injury since the beginning of 2017 after an incredible season that saw him claim the Wimbledon title, Olympic gold, and become world number one.
The father-of-two broke down in tears at a press conference on Friday as he confirmed he had reached the end of the road with his treatment, saying he couldn’t play at a level he would be happy with.
But even though he seems set for retirement this year, Murray hinted he could keep trying to come back in his post-match interview.
Murray’s match against Bautista Agut was watched by his mother Judy and brother Jamie, a rare occurrence for the busy tennis family.
Judy Murray, well practised at her poker face, let a few expressions slip as she watched her youngest son battle through the pain.
Bautista Agut had previously never taken a set from Murray, but won the first two 6-4.
Murray stunned the Spaniard to take the third set in a tense tie-break, losing two set points along the way before claiming it.
He leapt into the air in celebration, roaring in delight and punching his fists as the crowd rose to applaud him.
Murray appeared to be in pain during the fourth set, hobbling between points on a few occasions, but managed to take the set to a tie-break which he went on to win.
But in the fifth set, he was broken twice, once in the third game and then the fifth, leaving him trailing 4-1.
Murray saved match point, forcing Bautista Agut to win on his own serve. The Spaniard will play Australian John Millman in the second round.
Speaking after the match, Murray said: “It was amazing, that was incredible, thank you so so much to everybody who came out tonight.”
An emotional Murray continued: “I’ve loved playing here over the years, this might be my last dance and if it is it’s an amazing way to end.
“I gave everything I had and it wasn’t enough tonight, but congratulations to Roberto and his team.”
He thanked his own team and family, and everyone who supported his career over the years.
He said: “Maybe I’ll see you again. I will do everything possible to try. If I want to go again I’ll have to have a big operation which there’s no guarantee I’ll come back from but I’ll give it my best shot.”
Murray was interviewed by the first coach he had on the circuit, who introduced a video montage of fellow players paying tribute to him.
Rafael Nadal was among those who thanked Murray for his contribution to the sport and said “sometimes, life is not perfect”.
Novak Djokovic remembered the time Murray “kicked my butt pretty badly” when they met aged 12 in France.
Roger Federer said: “I’m your biggest fan.”
Following the montage, Murray said: “I’ve been very fortunate and unlucky to compete in an era with the guys who’ve been around.
“Roger, Rafa, Novak, have been incredibly difficult opponents but we’ve had some incredible moments, great battles that I think will live long in the memories of the fans.
“To have the respect of your peers is obviously the most important thing and it’s very nice they took the time to do that, I really appreciate it.”
Martha Kelner, Sky News sports correspondent, in Melbourne, said: “In many ways this match encapsulated Andy Murray’s career. A street fighter mentality, a never say die attitude.
“Now he is being defeated by his failing body.
“But those lucky enough to have a seat inside Melbourne arena were watching history. Witnessing arguably the greatest British athlete of a generation, in the final throes of his career.”