The three-time Grand Slam winner mounted a thrilling comeback from two sets to love down against Roberto Bautista Agut to force a deciding set before his Spanish opponent sealed a captivating-first round contest 6-4 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 after four hours and nine minutes.
Murray indicated last week his intention to retire after this year’s Wimbledon, even suggesting he feared the Australian Open could be his final professional appearance after an 18-month battle with injury, but defied expectations to compete well against the in-form world No 24.
Following the match, during which he was cheered on passionately by the Melbourne Arena crowd, Murray hinted he was still contemplating another operation to prolong his career and even suggested he hoped to return next year.
In an exclusive interview, Murray admitted to Sky News‘ Martha Kelner that even if he had managed to complete an unlikely victory he would have struggled to recover in time for the next match and stressed his ambitions at Grand Slams stretched beyond the first round.
Asked what his options were going forward, including the possibility of a hip resurfacing operation, Murray said: “If I had the operation in the next week or so it would be unlikely that I would be able to play Wimbledon. That would be a big turnaround.
“It’s a really big operation. It’s a common operation but it’s a big one and not an easy thing to recover from. There’s a chance by having that I am not able to play again – I am aware of that.
“But it is also my best option If I would like to try to play for longer than just one more event.
“It’s a decision between doing that or resting for the next four months and then training and building up to play Wimbledon one last time and that is the decision I need to make.”
Murray was shown courtside an emotional montage of tributes from his peers on both the ATP Tour and WTA Tour, and the Scot said he wasn’t yet ready to contemplate life post-tennis.
“I don’t know what I will do when I finish playing. It is something obviously I have thought about a little over the last couple of months when it has looked like this is the end,” he added.
“I don’t really want to think about anything else just now. I want to keep playing tennis, that is what I love doing.
“Other stuff away from the court just now is not really interesting me unfortunately. Maybe in a few years I might get back in tennis in some capacity.”
His mum Judy Murray and brother Jamie watched the match from the stands, with both having to fight back tears amid the emotional post-match reaction, as the 31-year-old, who became the first British man to win Wimbledon for 77 years in 2013, received a standing ovation.
Murray believes more could have been done in the grassroots to capitalise on the success British tennis has enjoyed amid his longevity at the top level of the sport, while he also highlighted the achievements of his compatriots.
“It hasn’t just been about me. We had Johanna Konta in the top 10 of the world, my brother [Jamie] has been No 1 in the world [in doubles], we won the Davis Cup [in 2015],” Murray said.
“Kyle Edmund has done really well the last few years and it has been a really good period for British tennis. My understanding is the participation figures are going down.
“There have been hardly any new indoor courts built in Scotland which is strange.
“It would be nice when you finish playing to look back and go ‘tennis has become a bigger sport, it is more popular, there are more children playing and there are more courts’.
“My understanding is that is not the case – I am sure other people may have stats that disprove that.”
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