Andy Murray concedes Australian Open career could be over after first-round, straight sets defeat

Andy Murray with moist eyes
Andy Murray bids an emotional farewell to the Melbourne crowd after his 16th and likely final Australian Open - James Ross/Shutterstock

Andy Murray gave a strong indication that he has made his final appearance at the Australian Open – the event where he reached five finals during the 2010s – after suffering a one-sided loss to Tomas Martin Etcheverry.

Murray also warned that losses as heavy as this will “narrow the timeframe” for his planned retirement date, and revealed that he has already discussed this date with his family and coaches. While the information remains a well-kept secret, there are three plausible candidates: Wimbledon, the Paris Olympics, or the US Open.

There were tears in Murray’s eyes as he hefted his racket bags at the end of the match and gave an extended, double-armed salute to the 5,000 fans on Kia Arena.

Afterwards, he told reporters that “It’s a definite possibility that will be the last time I play here. [I’m] just disappointed with the way I played. Wish I had involved the crowd more. Yeah, tough, tough way to finish.”

Murray’s 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 defeat made for mournful viewing. For the first half-hour or so, he clung on to the coat-tails of a man 12 years his junior. But once Etcheverry had won a close-ish first set, something seemed to go out of Murray. We could probably call it belief.

Andy Murray loses in the first round of the Australian Open
Andy Murray tried to rage against the dying of the light but there were no more resources to draw on - Julian Finney/Getty Images

For the next 90 minutes or so, Murray kept trying to reverse the momentum, as he has done so many times in the past. But that cussed “thou-shall-not-pass” feeling was missing. Increasingly, he resembled a non-swimmer trying to complete a length: plenty of splashing about and no end result.

Murray’s matches – even the defeats – used to be a reporter’s dream: so much sound and fury, so many ebbs and flows, such raw emotion. At this same event last season, he screamed his way through two five-set wins, and then went out in a tumultuous third-round meeting with Roberto Bautista Agut.

This was different. It was just tennis, and moderate tennis at that. Murray had a smattering of early break points, but failed to do much with them. Then, once he had gone behind, he made a brief attempt to surf the crowd’s energy, pumping his fist tamely towards the fans. But his heart did not seem to be in it.

In the interview room afterwards, Murray emphasised that Etcheverry is “a really, really good player. Even if I play well today, I can still lose the match. It’s just the nature of the performance that makes you question things.”

He also admitted that his whole strategy for the season – and indeed the remainder of his career – had been shaken by this dismal showing.
“I have an idea of when I would probably like to finish playing,” Murray said. “I’ve spoken to my family about it. I’ve spoken to my team about it. They’re very aware of how I feel about things, where I would like to finish playing, when that would be. The time frame for that narrows when you play and have results like today.”

Throughout his pre-tournament interviews, Murray kept insisting that he had made significant improvements over the off-season. Listening to him, one felt as if he were trying to convince himself as much as anyone else. And when it came to match day, we witnessed the same flaws that had marred his demoralising finish to last year: a low first-serve percentage (52), a reluctance to go after neutral balls, and a passive mindset on big points.

Andy Murray says goodbye
Murray's slow departure emphasised his sadness and the ebbing of self-belief - Tracey Nearmy/Reuters

As the 30th seed, Etcheverry stands in the “good but not great” category. He spoke afterwards about having played an “amazing” match by his own standards, but then he was able to go about his business without pressure or disruption. Murray would never have been so generous in his pomp.

The one thing that has not changed is Murray’s popularity with the fans. There were 50m queues all around the Kia Arena at the start of the match. Those who squeezed into the 5,000 seats will remember this day, for they are unlikely to see Sir Andy Murray at Melbourne Park again.

“The support that the crowds here over the years has given me has been unbelievable,” said Murray. “Today they all showed up again. I felt like I didn’t give enough back and I’m disappointed with that because they have helped me a lot over the years in matches here. They were definitely there to try to do that again for me today. I didn’t use the crowd and their support to my advantage like I should have done.
This result was part of a broader trend at this year’s Australian Open. With the exception of Novak Djokovic – who remains the ultimate anomaly – it has been a brutal couple of days for the champions of yesteryear.

Rafael Nadal never made it to the start line on account of the thigh strain he suffered in Brisbane. Marin Cilic, winner of the 2014 US Open, fell on the first afternoon without occasioning much comment. When Stan Wawrinka also departed on Monday afternoon, losing in five sets in the match that immediately preceded Murray’s, it felt like an unwelcome omen.

“It’s difficult when you played at the top of the game, I think, to change your perspective on how you should be performing,” said Murray. “If you come back and you’re not at that same level, it’s hard.

“I’ve been telling myself that at some stage it will [click]. But obviously when you have performances like today, or a batch of results over a period of time like I have done, it’s tough to keep believing in that.”

Etcheverry defeats Murray 6-4, 6-2, 6-2: as it happened

09:11 AM GMT

Sir Andy Murray out

No doubt Simon Briggs and Molly McElwee are at the press conference as we speak and if there is any BIG NEWS about his future then we will of course cover that in great depth here. Seems to me more likely that he’ll keep on until Wimbledon at least but if following this magnificent sportsman over the years has taught us anything it’s that he keeps on fighting and fighting. It wasn’t to be today and, in all honesty, Muzza never made it a war, he was well beaten by a highly competent and effective opponent who bested him in all areas. Thanks for following it with us.

08:50 AM GMT


08:35 AM GMT

How to assess that defeat?

Murray examines his racket for answers
Murray examines his racket for answers - Reuters

I’ve seen Murray defeats where he is pure raging throughout but I guess the worrying thing with this one is that he just went rather quietly?

08:32 AM GMT

A few stats

Etch got 71% of first serves in. Murray just 52%.

Andy only won 33% of points on his second serve. Etchevery 61%.

37 unforced errors for Murray, only 19 for the big Argentine.

Murray had five break points and only won one of them (in Etcheverry’s first service game). Etcheverry won 6 of 14 BPs.

In short, Etcheverry superior in all departments.

08:27 AM GMT

Etcheverry speaks

“Incredible match for me. Tough to play a legend like Andy, he is one of my idols. I played incredible and I hope I can keep this level. One hour for the first set, but I knew that a long battle is better for me. I want to keep going, I’ve worked so hard, there is a lot of things to improve. I want to be top 20 this year.”

Seems like a thoroughly nice chap and was impressive today. Hard to know what to read into the form of it from his point of view: Sir Andy just wasn’t at it after the first set and there will, sorry to say it, be tougher tests ahead for the 24-year-old Argentine.

08:26 AM GMT

Etcheverry beats Murray 6-4, 6-2, 6-2

Really impressive from Tomas Martin Etcheverry. A good scalp for him. Served well, covered the court well, was aggressive but controlled. Murray was flat, really. Never really got that mongrel mojo working and in truth he has been well beaten here.

08:23 AM GMT

Murray 4-6, 2-6, 2-6 Etcheverry

Etcheverry absolutely clinical here and has raced to 40-0. Three match points. Murray saves one. But not the second, a forehand into the net from the baseline and that is game, set and match to Tomas Martin Etcheverry.

08:15 AM GMT

Murray 4-6, 2-6, 2-5 Etcheverry*

Murray loses the first point. Let first service on the second. Fault. Second service at 0-15. A long rally and Murray hits a forehand wide from the centre of the court. It’s 0-30 and it’s now or never. Let first service again, and a fault again. Nice drop from Murray and Etch does brilliantly to get there, but he cannot return. Does it again to the same part of the court and again the drop shot scores for Andy. The touch is still there even if the power isnae.

But just as he has got himself back in the game he hits a low-pressure shot into the net. 30-40.

Oooh there is some magnificent court coverage from Etcheverry here, all over the back of the court, dogged, refuses to give up. Reminds me of someone....  He’s won the point, he’s broken the Murray serve again and it’s last chance saloon for SAM now.

08:12 AM GMT

Murray* 4-6, 2-6, 2-4 Etcheverry

If he does indeed have a flare-up of his hip problem then Murray didn’t deem it sufficient to have the medic or trainer on at the changeover. Instead he faces the tender mercies of the giant Argentine, who is serving a break up at 3-2. Murray wins a good point to make it 15-15 but Murray looks to be in some pain now.

At deuce, the crowd roar Murray on. Etcheverry silences them with an ace. And another excellent serve to wrap up game six.

08:08 AM GMT

Murray 4-6, 2-6, 2-3 Etcheverry*

Worrying moment for Murray at 30-30 as he loses a rally and, facing a break point, he is in trouble. Both men are at the net and it’s Etch who produces the better short game, Murray hits a volley into the net and is broken. Furthermore, he looks to be struggling with his hip now.

08:04 AM GMT

Murray* 4-6, 2-6, 2-2 Etcheverry

At 30-0, Etcheverry books it to get to a drop shot from SAM and wins the point. Moves the older man around with something like ease on the next point and wraps the game up.

08:02 AM GMT

Murray 4-6, 2-6, 2-1 Etcheverry*

Murray holds. And indeed dominates this game.

07:55 AM GMT

Murray* 4-6, 2-6, 1-1 Etcheverry

Etcheverry impressive. Good physicality, no obvious weakness in his game and he’s remained rock solid throughout. Playing the man not the name and not getting psyched out. To be honest he’s been a cut above Andy so far in all departments. Albeit that you never say never with the Dunblane man of steel.

All that said, a rare error here from Etch and the door opens a crack at 30-30. But the big lad from La Plata slams it shut soon enough.

07:51 AM GMT

Third Set: Murray 4-6, 2-6, 1-0 Etcheverry* (*denotes next server)

Murray serves at the start of the third set. And he manages to hold. Muted reaction from him

Britain's Andy Murray reacts during his first round match against Argentina's Tomas Martin Etcheverry
Britain's Andy Murray reacts during his first round match against Argentina's Tomas Martin Etcheverry - Reuters

07:46 AM GMT

Etcheverry wins second set: Murray 4-6, 2-6 Etcheverry

Hmm, absolutely no problems at all for the big Argentine in that service hold. Couple of aces. No muss, no fuss and he’s two sets up.

07:40 AM GMT

Murray 4-6, 2-5 Etcheverry*

Utilising the new balls, Murray bangs in an ace. Nice drop shot from Etch next shot though, harder to do with the new balls, but perfectly executed. 15-15.

Another error from Murray, under relatively little pressure at the back of the court.

It’s 15-40 soon enough though and Murray is really in the soup. He saves the first BP and then has a volley to wriggle free... but Andy has put the volley into the net and that’s a second break of serve.

Murray not raging when he loses the big points as he sometimes does. He had a little feel of his hamstring earlier.

07:39 AM GMT

Murray* 4-6, 2-4 Etcheverry

Etcheverry holds.

Murray serves next with a) new balls and b) new racket.

07:33 AM GMT

Murray 4-6, 2-3 Etcheverry*

Feels like a huge one. Needs a deuce, albeit only one, and Sir Andy Murray holds his serve.

Murray has pushed his first serve above 50%...

07:24 AM GMT

Murray* 4-6, 1-3 Etcheverry

A set down and a break down, Murray has it all to do. He’s made seven unforced errors in this second set so far.

But Etcheverry holds that without much fuss, to 15.

07:18 AM GMT

Murray 4-6, 1-2 Etcheverry*

Yuk. A double fault at 30-30 puts SAM under the pump. He produces a fine serve and comes into the net. Go’orn Andy. Wallops a forehand volley home for the winner and it’s deuce.

But Andy misses with a backhand now to give Etch another break. Ace! Andy’s fourth. Back to 40-40. Good serve now but an unforced error into the net with a forehand. Cute little sliced drop shot just about stays in to win the point. A third deuce.

But Murray soon up against it, another break point for TME and then Andy fails with a crosscourt forehand that hits the net cord but doesn’t do Andy a favour. It’s a break of serve.

07:17 AM GMT

Murray* 4-6, 1-1 Etcheverry

The family-sized Argentine holds that service game to get on the board in the second set.

07:09 AM GMT

Second Set: Murray 4-6, 1-0 Etcheverry* (*denotes next server)

Murray has to work hard to hold, but he does. A possible winning strategy suggests itself when he gets a ball low at the feet of the 6 foot 5 Argentine, who isn’t the best at getting down. He needs to move the big opponent around as much as he can.

Telegraph Sport’s Molly McElwee: “That first set went mostly how we expected it to go: long rallies, physical points, lengthy games. Etcheverry is in front, but the good news is that in both of their previous meetings the winner of the first set went on to lose the match. The bad news is Murray’s hopes of playing a shorter match are not looking great. Murray only serving at 44 per cent - so not getting many chances at free points. That is something he said was essential ahead of this match, and is the obvious thing he needs to improve in the second set.”

07:01 AM GMT

First set: Etcheverry wins 6-4

Potentially important moment at 15-0 when Murray, who had generally been on top in the point, misjudges a forehand. Long. 30-0 and Etch has a big opportunity. Murray hits another groundstroke long and it’s 40-0. Ace out wide to wrap it up.

Tomas Martin Etcheverry wins the first set 6-4 in 61 minutes.

Murray only got 44% of his first serve in. There were very few cheap points for SAM. He serves first up in the second set.

Here’s Simon Briggs: “Classic case of the opening set being decided by a break in game seven - the last service game with soggy old balls, which is all the more of an issue here because the balls are simply not lasting very well. Murray’s set can be explained in two unsatisfactory stats: 44 per cent first serves in, and one of five break points converted. Even the one break point he did win came via a lucky dead net cord. His nerve on big points isn’t what it was.”

Andy Murray
The great man, as ever, looking like he's been run over by a bus - EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

06:56 AM GMT

Murray 4-5 Etcheverry*

So Murray is serving to stay in the set. In their two previous meetings, the man who lost the first set went on to win but, as Eurosport commentator Anne Keovathong points out, them’s were only three-set affairs.

Lovely backhand winner from SAM, taking the ball early and crisp for a winner to make it 40-0. Secures the service hold with the minimum of fuss but Tomas Martin Etcheverry will now serve for the first set.

06:54 AM GMT

Murray* 3-5 Etcheverry

Etcheverry, serving with the new balls, makes good use of them with his first ace of the match. 15-0. Definitely looks a bit harder to return. Etch comes to the net but cannot pick up a half volley on the toes and puts the ball into the net. Another ace. 30-15. Woof, I took my eyes of it for a split second and he’s banged in another ace and that’s game.

06:47 AM GMT

Murray 3-4 Etcheverry*

Excellent bit of expert insight from Mr Briggs there. Andy will serve with the old balls then I guess we could say. It’s 3-3 and he is in trouble. At 0-30, Etcheverry produces a super lob and it’s 0-40.

Murray saves the first break point by haring in to the net. Pressure from Murray and he saves another BP when Etcheverry’s lob lands long.

30-40. Big moment. A long rally... but it ends with Murray dumping a forehand, under relatively little pressure, into the net from the baseline.

Etcheverry breaks the Murray serve

06:39 AM GMT

Murray* 3-3 Etcheverry

He has to fight hard for it, including saving a break point, but Etch has held his serve there. A fist pump at the end.

Simon Briggs: “Watch out for the new balls in the next Etcheverry service game (game eight of the set). The balls they’re using this year get very slow and fluffed-up midway through their life on court (normally nine games, but seven for the first lot because of the warm-up). Then the new ones come out and they’re much smaller, harder and faster. Servers may hit their first serves long as a result, but if they land in, they’re tough to return.”

06:37 AM GMT

Murray 3-2 Etcheverry*

Sir Andy Murray
Going to war again: Sir Andy Murray is at it again - Reuters

Relatively brisk and comfortable hold here from Murray as he takes a service game to 15, wrapping it up with an ace out wide.

06:29 AM GMT

Murray* 2-2 Etcheverry

A super backhand at 40-30 from Murray forces deuce. Each game so far has gone to deuce.

Murray earns a break point with a long rally but Etcheverry saves that with a mighty overhead when Murray’s lob asks for trouble.

Etcheverry holds. Impressive from him.

06:20 AM GMT

Murray 2-1 Etcheverry*

Now it’s Murray’s turn to use a short slice and bring his opponent forward. Wins a point with that tactic, and then a drop shot to make it 30-0. Etcheverry comes forward of his own volition now though, an imposing figure with that wingspan. Murray’s game plan in general these days is to try and win points quickly, and it would be helpful if he could get the serve working. Murray looks to have no hope of getting this one back but hits a glorious running crosscourt forehand from the back right corner to win the point and hold serve.

Here is Daily Telegraph tennis correspondent Simon Briggs: “By the time they return after the first changeover, it’s already 23 minutes on the clock. Which isn’t quite the plan for Murray, who has spoken extensively about his desire to earn more cheap points on his serve. Still, some encouraging signs so far. Murray’s ball-strike has been clean and his movement particularly strong when pushed out wide to his forehand side.”

06:10 AM GMT

Murray* 1-1 Etcheverry

Etcheverry looks calm, composed. Moving well for a big lad. He is trying to manoeuvre Murray around as much as possible, seems like a solid tactic against a man with a metal hip.

A nice passing shot from Murray makes it 40-30 and the first moment for the crowd to get involved with. Battling point on the backhand crosscourt makes it deuce.

At 40-A Murray has chances but a nice drop shot from Etch wins the point. Murray forces another BP. A little bit of luck for SAM now and he has broken back.

It’s 1-1. 16 minutes for the first two games. Ah, Andy. Never change.

06:04 AM GMT

First set: Andy Murray 0-1 Tomas Martin Etcheverry* (*denotes next server)

The second point is a very long one and Etcheverry plays a nice drop shot that Murray struggles to get to. Murray puts that out and it’s 0-30. It’s soon 0-40 and, as if we didn’t know, it’s going to be a battle! Murray saves the first of the break points, and the next as well with an elegant sliced backhand that draws an error. 30-40. He’s a lovely big boy is Etcheverry, six foot five.

Murray drops a groundstroke short and Etcheverry bashes that away for a crosscourt forehand winner. Break.

Suboptimal start for SAM then as he is broken to 30 in the first game of the match.

Simon Briggs writes: “It seems like the organisers have underclubbed on the court for this one. The queues outside the Kia Arena are stretching for 50m.”

06:01 AM GMT

Right then

Sir Andy Murray will serve first.

05:58 AM GMT

The players have

met twice before. Both of them were long matches. They’ve won one each.

Etcheverry is a clay court specialist.

05:57 AM GMT

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05:56 AM GMT

The players are out on court

Andy’s in a grey shirt with black trim, white shirts and a white cap.

05:55 AM GMT

Sir Andy

has won 51 matches at the Aus Open.

Here he is at the press conference ahead of his bid to win 52.

“I am enjoying it better. Tennis is a difficult game mentally when you are struggling, you are obviously out there on your own. When you know you are capable of doing better than what you are. Fixing some of my technical problems has helped me feel better.”

05:48 AM GMT

One from the archives

05:47 AM GMT

It's a warm afternoon

in Melbourne. There’s some thundery showers on the forecast but that’s not come to pass as yet.

05:40 AM GMT

Andy Murray on court soon

Mannarino really put the hammer down in that fifth set, he won it 6-0 in under half an hour and that ends the challenge of Stan Wawrinka. Hopefully another veteran has a bit more to shout about shortly...

05:24 AM GMT

Waiting game for Sir Andy

I often wonder what it is like for the players when they’re on third or fourth on a court, you never know what time you are going to be starting. Some will take that in their stride, some will burn through a lot of nervous energy. It’s one of tennis’ quirks: most sports you know what time the match is going to start, right? With all his vast experience and mental strength, maybe this will bother Andy less than his greener opponent? Hard to say for sure.

05:15 AM GMT

Sir Andy

will have to wait a bit longer to get on court, then: Mannarino and Wawrinka is going the distance. Murray won’t be on court for another 45 minutes or so.

04:52 AM GMT

Kia Arena

So a bit of a Golden Oldies theme on this court so far today, with 36-year-old Italian Sara Errani playing first up. The Italian veteran, a former top five player, lost to a qualifier: Aussie Storm Hunter.

Stan Wawrinka currently playing, as I said. He’s 2-2 in a the fourth set with Mannarino. They broke each others serve but it was back to all square at 2-2... Mannarino has pulled away a bit now and is serving for the fourth set... he’s got it. Those guys are going to need a decisive fifth set.

07:06 PM GMT

Andy Murray coming up

Good morning, I hope this Monday dawns bright for you, and hopefully this is a great day for Andy Murray. The iron man of British sport is having another tilt at a major, he says that he wants to go deep in a big tournament and whatever happens today against Tomas Martin Etcheverry, you can bet that Sir Andy will fight to the last. And that he will give his fans joy and probably a bit of agony on the way.

Murray is playing next on the Kia Arena. He has to wait for Stan Wawrinka to finish his match. Stan, like Andy, has won three slams in surely the hardest era to have ever played and is having a right battle with Adrian Mannarino, into a fourth set there.

Murray is making his 16th appearance in the main draw at Melbourne Park on Monday. Etcheverry is seeded (30) but one other indefatigable tennis great is saying you should never bet against Murray.

“Well, I would never rule Andy out,” Becker said on Eurosport. “As long as he has fun, as long as he enjoys it and as long as he has success, he will continue.

“I was worried a couple of years ago when he did the press conference and said it was most likely his last one because it was before his surgery so he didn’t know if he would come back.

“We moved past that and I think he is physically fit enough, but obviously the tennis circuit doesn’t sleep and Andy doesn’t get younger either.

“Those 22-years-old are now those 24-years-olds and Andy is 36 so the clock is ticking.

“I am sure he will do well this year., I am sure he is aiming for a successful Wimbledon and he’ll take it from there.”

His longevity and heart are legendary and while there are few who would bet on him reaching a 12th slam final, or in all honesty getting particularly close, there is so much to admire about his will to try.

He has been runner-up here a sickening five times (he lost to Federer in 2010 and then four times to Djokovic in 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016) but he has produced some of the best tennis of his storied career in Australia.

His opponent is a 24-year-old Argentine, who is the 30th seed and also ranked 30 in the world.

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