After a gallant performance in an epic tussle that could mark his last match, Andy Murray faces a difficult decision.
Andy Murray expects to decide whether to have another hip operation “in the next week”, admitting there are no guarantees he will be able to play again if he does have surgery after potentially bidding farewell to tennis at the Australian Open on Monday.
The three-time grand slam champion and former world number one produced a remarkable performance to push Roberto Bautista Agut – who this month beat Novak Djokovic en route to the title in Doha – to five sets in an engrossing contest at Melbourne Park.
Though he eventually lost 6-4 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 after four hours and nine minutes, the mammoth contest would serve as a fitting finale for Murray, who received a standing ovation from the crowd before his last service game.
Murray’s initial plan was to end his glittering career at Wimbledon, the scene of two of his major triumphs, though he now faces a decision between resting with that goal in mind or undergoing another procedure, which could end any hope of him playing at the All England Club one more time.
“I have basically like two options. One is to take the next four and a half months off, then build up, play Wimbledon,” Murray told a media conference.
“Although tonight was not comfortable in terms of my hip. At the end, I’m really struggling. I can’t walk properly at all just now. I could play another match, but if I want to try to play again, I want to improve my quality of life, because even if I take four months, I still can’t walk.
“I’m still in pain doing just basic day-to-day things. But having an operation like that, there’s absolutely no guarantees I’d be able to play again. I’m fully aware of that.
“It’s a really big operation. There’s no guarantees that you can come back from that. But there is the possibility, because guys have done it before. Bob Bryan is doing it just now. Some other athletes have given it a go. That’s kind of the decision I have to make, that possibility of not having one more match by having the operation.
“I’ll probably decide in the next week or so. But that’s what I was saying the other day, that this might be my last match. If I go ahead with the operation, I don’t recover well from it, then I don’t play again.
“It will improve my quality of life, I’ll be in less pain doing just normal things like walking around and putting your shoes and socks on and things.
“I just don’t really know yet. But if this was my last match it was a brilliant way to finish. That’s something that I’ll probably take into consideration, as well.
“It was an amazing atmosphere. I literally gave everything that I had on the court, fought as best as I could, and performed a lot better than I should have done with the amount I’ve been able to practice and train. I’d be okay with that being my last match.”
Murray’s admirable effort against Bautista Agut came just days after he was handily beaten in a practice match by Djokovic.
Explaining the disparity between those displays, he added: “Let’s say in my practice with Novak, I fly around the court, my hip is really sore the next day, it maybe means I can’t play the tournament here. So, I’m always holding back.
“Today I knew it was potentially the last match I play. I don’t care if I damage my hip any more in the match, so it’s a bit easier to deal with the pain because I know that I don’t have to hit balls tomorrow, that if I’m really sore, I’ve been dealing with it a long time, I’ll deal with it a few more days.
“It was easier a little bit to deal with the pain knowing that I’m not going to play another match for at least five months or maybe not again. So that helped.”