Andy Murray knocked out of Australian Open after another battling performance
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Novak Djokovic played through the pain barrier to make it through, but Dan Evans went out. Murray was back at the scene of his late-night heroics against Thanasi Kokkinakis, having done his best to recover from the five-hour, 45-minute epic in which he came back from two sets down to claim victory at 4.05am. Coupled with a near five-hour first-round win against Matteo Berrettini, Murray had spent 10 hours and 34 minutes on court just making it through to the last 32.
To begin with it appeared he would offer little resistance but he willed himself into the match and improbably took the second set before Spaniard Bautista Agut claimed a 6-1 6-7 (7) 6-3 6-4 victory after three hours and 29 minutes. Coupled with a loss for Evans to Andrey Rublev earlier, that is now the end of the British challenge in singles for another year at Melbourne Park.
This was the first time at a grand slam since the French Open in 2017, when Murray's hip problems began, that he has been the last British singles player standing. The contest also came four years after he tearfully revealed the extent of his hip pain and that he was considering retiring ahead of a first-round clash with Bautista Agut in Melbourne.
Evans' generosity came back to bite him as he was overpowered by fifth seed Andrey Rublev in the third round. After the first nine games went with serve, Rublev asked a ball boy for some bananas to give him a boost of energy.
Overhearing, Evans threw one of his bananas to his opponent, who promptly broke serve in the next game to take the opening set and did not look back in a 6-4 6-2 6-3 victory. The incident has drawn comparisons to the 1980s cartoon – and current Beano character – Bananaman. In the story Eric, a schoolboy, turns into his alter ego and gains superpowers when he eats a banana.
"He actually asked for four bananas, and I quite like him, so I shared with him," said Evans. "They only brought two, so I donated (one) so he could have one."
Rublev smiled when asked about it in his post-match interview, saying: "He helped me with some energy for sure. I won an extra two games because I ate a banana."
Elsewhere, Novak Djokovic continued to defy a hamstring injury as a straight-sets victory over Grigor Dimitrov sent him into the fourth round. In the women’s singles, Czech teenager Linda Fruhvirtova continued her breakthrough grand slam by defeating countrywoman Marketa Vondrousova to reach the fourth round.
The 17-year-old is currently heading a crop of young Czech women who are expected to make a big impression over the next decade or so. Her 15-year-old sister Brenda, who qualified for the main draw here, is also among them along with 18-year-old Linda Noskova and 16-year-old Sara Bejlek.