Australian Open 1st Rd Preview Andy Murray vs Roberto Bautista Agut
Andy Murray’s announcement that this Australian Open could be his final tournament and his first round match being against Robert Bautista Agut mean this contest will likely end up being the tournament’s most memorable first rounder if not match.
Murray coming up against Bautista Agut, seeded 22, means this Murray Melbourne match will, barring a miracle or Bautista Agut himself getting injured, be his last.
Murray leads Bautista Agut 3-0 in their head to head and has never dropped a set to him, but if ever head to heads meant little, it’s in this match with both men at very different stages of their career, Murray’s ending and Bautista Agut’s blossoming.
Bautista Agut is on a great run of form, beating Novak Djokivic in the Doha semis and Tomas Berdych in the final, arguably the greatest week of his career.
Like Murray, Bautista Agut is a counterpuncher at heart and very fast around the court, and his higher level of fitness and match play should mean the Spaniard will make Murray chase down one too many balls than he is physically capable of doing.
Murray’s hip may be pushing him out of the game, but he will give everything he has to stay in the tournament and make this potential final slam one to be proud of.
Win or lose, Murray will receive a heart-warming reception from the crowd on Melbourne Arena, where this match is scheduled not before 6 pm,and there will be plenty of hankies passed around.
Murray has earned the love of the locals. The Scot has the unenviable but impressive record of reaching the most finals in Melbourne (5) and not winning the title (’10, ’11, ’13, ’15, ’16)
The Scot’s counter-punching, tactical astuteness, superb physical conditioning, match winning backhand and fine touch have seen him beat the likes of Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, Marin Cilic, Kei Nishikori, and Milos Raonic, and contest the formidable 2011 semi-final versus Novak Djokovic at Melbourne Park.
Bautista-Agut may never reach the status of the afore-mentioned Murray rivals, but he, like Murray did in his career, seems intent on reaching his potential, and this Australian Open could be his best chance to start doing so.
For now, the Spaniard is an underachiever slam wise, having never gone beyond the fourth round in 24 attempts, (though he has reached the fourth round 9 times) but the Australian Open is where the 22nd seed has had his most fourth round appearances- 3 in total.
Bautista has been held back by not having the weapons needed to beat the top players over five sets, but his flat and quick forehand can produce winners, and does so now on a more regular basis, and his fitness and solid all round game just keeps improving.
Beating Murray won’t be all straight-forward business for Bautista Agut despite his opponent’s compromised condition. There will be a lot of attention for a first rounder, a lot of emotion, and we all know what they say about wounded lions and all.
Few fiercer lions than Murray have prowled the Melbourne Park courts Down Under and Bautista Agut will need to be supremely focused and professional to put him out of his misery.
The Spaniard is up to the task mentally as well as physically and knows all about getting on with the job- he lost his mother before last year’s Roland Garros only to go on and play some of his career best matches the rest of the season.
That drive adds even more heart to a match rich in heartbreak and celebration of the sporting spirit. Whatever you do, don’t miss it.
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