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Tennis: Bautista Agut expects injured Murray to ‘fight’ in Melbourne clash

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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut will give no quarter to Andy Murray in their first round clash at the Australian Open and expects the injured Briton to “fight” hard in what could be his last match as a professional.

Three-times Grand Slam champion Murray said on Friday that he may retire after the tournament, with the pain of his right hip having become almost unbearable.

Murray’s admission prompted a flood of tributes from the tennis world, while thrusting the 22nd seed Bautista Agut into a rare spotlight, and the awkward position of potentially ending the popular Scot’s career in defeat.

“Well, everybody knows Andy, everybody knows that when he goes onto the court he gives 100 percent,” the soft-spoken Bautista Agut told reporters at Melbourne Park on Saturday.

“He’s going to fight as he did all his career, and tomorrow’s going to be the same.

“On the court I will be in a competition to win my match and of course I will try everything to get the win.

“I have to be ready for a difficult match in these conditions, and well, I’ll try to be very concentrate.”

Former world number 13 Bautista Agut has never taken a set off Murray in three previous matches but will have his best chance to beat the ailing 31-year-old, whose ranking has slipped to 230 after having hip surgery a year ago.

The Spaniard is also riding a rare wave of form, having claimed his ninth title at the recent Qatar Open where he knocked world number one Novak Djokovic out of the semi-finals.

The win was the perfect start to the new season following a difficult 2018 when he suffered a slew of injuries, including a groin problem that ruled him out of Wimbledon.

“It’s the worst thing in the tennis life, and the tennis career, you know, when you have injuries and you cannot play or you have to go on court feeling that you are not ready or you are not 100 percent,” said the 30-year-old.

The Melbourne Park crowd are certain to be firmly in the corner of Murray, the only man to suffer five runner-up finishes without winning the title.

Bautista Agut, a baseline hustler with a big serve, said he would not be bothered if the terraces treated him as something of a pantomime villain.

“I’m used to it, I’ve played in Davis Cup matches, I played in many many situations like this and well, I hope to enjoy the match like him,” he said.

“Andy, as I said, is one of the best players in the history. I watched him in many, many matches on TV and I tried to do things on court that he does very well.

“We also practise sometimes, we know each other well.

“I hope it’s going to be a nice match, it’s a great experience for me to play in Australia in one of his last Grand Slams against him.”

(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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