Andy Murray spent more than 10 hours on court across his opening two matches at the Australian Open, pushing his body to win five-set epics against Matteo Berrettini and Thanasi Kokkinakis.
Saturday’s third-round task against Roberto Bautista Agut proved a step too far, with the Spaniard defeating the five-time Australian Open finalist 6-1, 6-7(7), 6-3, 6-4 to reach the fourth round.
In 2019, the pair met on Margaret Court Arena for an emotional encounter, with Murray losing what he feared would be the final match of his career. Competing in the same stadium four years on, Bautista Agut once again had the answers to triumph after three hours and 29 minutes.
“Always playing Andy is very tough,” Bautista Agut said. “He knows very well how to play a Grand Slam match. I am happy with how I handled the nerves and tension through the match, to play good tennis. I am very happy with the win.
“I am feeling good on the court. I am competing well and I am doing everything I can off court to make sure I play good matches. Today was very tough.”
The 24th seed struck his flat groundstrokes with consistency, limiting errors off both wings to frustrate Murray. Despite looking fatigued, Murray fought hard. He rallied from a break down in the second set, saving two set points to dramatically level.
However, the former World No. 1 was unable to maintain the same intensity levels as the match went on. He produced moments of magic, but struggled physically in the third and fourth sets, striking his serve and forehand with limited power.
Bautista Agut was also pushed to five sets in the second round, clawing past American wild card Brandon Holt. Yet the Spaniard looked fresh, breaking Murray’s serve six times to improve to 4-3 in his ATP Head2Head series against the 35-year-old.
The 34-year-old will next play Tommy Paul. If he overcomes the American he will equal his best result in Melbourne, having advanced to the quarter-finals in 2019.