Andy Murray’s run at Australian Open ends

Andy Murray
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MELBOURNE, Australia — Andy Murray evened his Australian Open match at a set apiece and stood in a corner of Margaret Court Arena with his hands on his hips, staring up into the stands, where spectators were jumping and screaming, pumping their arms and waving blue-and-white Scottish flags.

All of those fans, and Murray himself, could have been excused in that moment for thinking, “Here we go again!”

Except there would be no five-set thriller this time for Murray and his many backers. No after-midnight finish. No classic comeback. And no victory. No, the wear-and-tear of Murray’s two previous unending, unyielding, performances simply took too much out of his 35-year-old body and metal hip, leaving him with more than a half-dozen blisters and an aching lower back during a 6-1, 6-7 (7), 6-3, 6-4 loss to Roberto Bautista Agut in the third round Saturday night.

“You can’t always control the outcome. You can’t control how well you’re going to play or the result. You can control the effort that you put into it, and I gave everything that I had the last three matches. I’m very proud of that,” said Murray, a five-time finalist at Melbourne Park and the owner of three Grand Slam titles from elsewhere. “But, yeah, I’m also disappointed.”

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men

This match ended a minute shy of 3 1/2 hours, which seemed rather short and sweet when compared to Murray’s exhausting trek that took more than 10 1/2 hours earlier in the week: He beat 13th-seeded Matteo Berrettini in a five-setter in the first round on Tuesday, then eliminated Thanasi Kokkinakis in another five-setter in the second round that began on Thursday night and concluded a little after 4 a.m. on Friday.

Murray then slept from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., showed up at the tournament site to get his blisters drained, and returned to his hotel for a nap, before getting on court to hit for just 15 minutes or so.

He got off to a slow start against Bautista Agut on Saturday, made a strong push to grab the second set, and faded down the stretch. When the match was over, Murray was given quite a send-off.

“Today (there) was a lot love of for Andy,” the 24th-seeded Bautista Agut said afterward. “I think maybe next round, a little bit more for me.”

These two had played six times previously, including Bautista Agut’s win at the Australian Open in 2019, a year after Murray had his first of two hip operations — and days after he tearfully acknowledged he thought he was on the verge of retirement.

After that loss to Bautista Agut, a video tribute to Murray was played in the stadium, and he himself uttered the words, “If today was my last match …”

Not much later came Murray’s second procedure, this one to fit him with an artificial hip, and he eventually returned to the tour.

In the time since, he has wondered aloud whether the work it takes to be competitive now is worth it. After Saturday’s loss, he was asked how moments such as those this week make him feel.

“I would like to go out playing tennis like this, where I’m competing with the best players in the world in the biggest events and doing myself justice. There were maybe times, the last year or so, where I didn’t really feel like I was playing well, and I didn’t enjoy the way that I was playing,” said Murray, whose exit Saturday leaves Novak Djokovic as the lone major champion still in the men’s field.

At this Australian Open, though, he explained: “It’s more enjoyable for me when I’m playing like that, when I’m coming into a major event and really believing that I can do some damage.”

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Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

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One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

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Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Olympic 400m champion, announces pregnancy

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Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo, the two-time reigning Olympic 400m champion, announced she is pregnant with her first child.

“New Year, New Blessing,” she posted on social media with husband Maicel Uibo, the 2019 World Championships silver medalist in the decathlon for Estonia. “We can’t wait to meet our little bundle of joy.”

Miller-Uibo, 28, followed her repeat Olympic title in Tokyo by winning her first world indoor and outdoor titles last year.

Also last year, Miller-Uibo said she planned to drop the 400m and focus on the 200m going into the 2024 Paris Games rather than possibly bid to become the first woman to win the same individual Olympic running event three times.

She has plenty of experience in the 200m, making her world championships debut in that event in 2013 and placing fourth. She earned 200m bronze at the 2017 Worlds, was the world’s fastest woman in the event in 2019 and petitioned for a Tokyo Olympic schedule change to make a 200m-400m double easier. The petition was unsuccessful.

She did both races anyway, finishing last in the 200m final, 1.7 seconds behind the penultimate finisher on the same day of the 400m first round.

She did not race the 200m at last July’s worlds, where the 200m and 400m overlapped.

Notable moms to win individual Olympic sprint titles include American Wilma Rudolph, who swept the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at the 1960 Rome Olympics two years after having daughter Yolanda.

And Dutchwoman Fanny Blankers-Koen, who won four gold medals at the 1948 London Olympics, when the mother of two also held world records in the high jump and long jump, two events in which she didn’t compete at those Games.

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