Andy Murray remains optimistic he will play again after going down in a five-set epic in the Australian Open first round.
The two-time Olympic champion fought back from two sets down and defied agony in his hip to force a decider against Roberto Bautista Agut in Melbourne, but lost out in the fifth.
The three-time Grand Slam champion battled relentlessly for more than four hours before it finished 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 6-2 to the Spaniard. The 31-year-old admitted he will require further hip surgery in order to extend his career.
“Maybe I'll see you again,” Murray said to the crowd. “I'll do everything possible to try.
“If I want to go again, I'll need to have a big operation, which there's no guarantee I'll be able to come back from anyway, but I'll give it my best shot.”
Murray announced this will be his final season last week after struggling with a hip injury for several years, expressing his intention to retire after Wimbledon.
He grimaced increasingly throughout the match, struggling with the pain in his hip, as his opponent moved him around the court – well aware of his ailment.
Murray fought through the first two sets but a single break of serve in each was enough for the Spaniard.
It started to look bleak when Bautista Agut broke early in the third set, but Murray responded with his first break of the match to move back level.
He showed trademark resilience to hold his serve in the ninth game of the third, before battling through a tie-break, 7-5, to take it to a fourth set.
With the Australian crowd at his back, he took it to tie-break decider and came through again, 7-4 this time, to make it two sets all before Bautista Agut came back to comfortably take the match in the last.
After the match Murray paid tribute to the crowd, for their emphatic support during the encounter.
Struggling to control his emotions, he said: “It was incredible, thanks so so much to everyone who came out tonight.
“I've loved playing here over the years. It's an amazing place to play tennis. If this was my last match then an amazing way to end. I gave everything I had. It wasn't enough tonight.
“Thanks again. Thanks to everyone for all of the support – my team, my family, and everyone who has contributed to my career.”
Elsewhere it was a mixed opening day for the British players, with two wins out of six matches.
Katie Boulter sprung a surprise as she beat veteran tour player Ekaterina Makarova 6-0 4-6 7-6.
She believed she had taken the win after reaching seven in the deciding tie-break – before realising it was the first to ten under the new format at the Australian Open.
Boulter, 22, collected herself to make sure she took the final three points required, earning her a second-round clash with 11th seed Aryna Sabalenka, from Belarus.
Dan Evans also made it through to round two after beating Japanese player Tatsuma Ito 7-5, 6-1, 7-6, with a match against third seed and six-time champion Roger Federer up next.
He said: “I played him at Wimbledon before. It's not very often you get to play Roger on obviously a pretty big court, I'm guessing. I look forward to it.”
But there were defeats for Cam Norrie and Kyle Edmund, the latter beaten by former Grand Slam finalist Tomas Berdych on the opening day while Harriet Dart, beaten by five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova, and Heather Watson also lost out.
Tomorrow’s action will see British number one Johanna Konta play her opener against home favourite Ajla Tomljanovic. Sportsbeat 2019