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Sport: Andy Murray blow after out-of-character Scottish independence remark: 'Time to move on'

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Sir Andy Murray makes his first return to Melbourne three years on from his emotional 'retirement' speech today. The Briton believed he had played his last game of professional tennis after battling through five gruelling sets against number 22 seed Roberto Bautista Agut. Tournament organisers played a farewell montage with tributes from fellow superstars Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Serena Williams, based on the assumption it was all over ahead of a major hip operation. He broke down in tears as pent-up emotions came to the surface in the post-match press conference.

Yet, three years on, here he is again. With a new metal hip and the old glint back in his eye, simply being in Melbourne is a victory in itself.

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Now ranked 113th in the world, the Scotsman faces 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili in the first round of the Australian Open.

The match begins at around 4am UK time, with coverage live on Eurosport and also available through Amazon Prime.

Proud Scotsman Murray initially refused to endorse either side of the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, citing abuse he had received over comments about England's World Cup campaign in 2006.

However, on the day of the referendum, he tweeted: "Huge day for Scotland today!

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Andy Murray © GETTY Andy Murray Andy Murray © GETTY Andy Murray

"No campaign negativity last few days totally swayed my view on it.

"Excited to see the outcome. Let's do this!"

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He received a barrage of abuse for the tweet, considered to be supportive of independence, and later admitted it was out of character.

In an interview with the BBC in China shortly after the vote, in which a 55 percent majority opposed independence, he said: "I don't regret giving an opinion.

"I think everyone should be allowed that. The way I did it, yeah, it wasn't something I would do again."

Andy Murray © GETTY Andy Murray

He admitted it had been a "very emotional day" for Scotland and the rest of the UK.

He continued: "The way it was worded, the way I sent it, is not really in my character. I don't normally do stuff like that.

"So, yeah, I was a bit disappointed by that. It's time to move on.

"I can't go back on that and I'll concentrate on my tennis for the next few months."

Nicola Sturgeon has vowed to continue her push for a second independence referendum by next year.

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Andy Murray © GETTY Andy Murray

In a speech at the end of last year at the Scottish National Party conference, she said: "In the course of the next year, I will initiate the process necessary to enable a referendum before the end of 2023."

According to STV News polling at the end of last year, backing for 'Yes' is now at 55 percent, up five points compared to Ipsos Mori polling just before the Holyrood election in May.

Murray, meanwhile, has been Down Under for three weeks now, having flown out on December 27.

Speaking to the media ahead of today's clash, he admitted to feeling a sense of guilt at leaving his young children behind.

Andy Murray © GETTY Andy Murray

Murray and his wife Kim have four children, the youngest of which was born in March last year.

The doting father said: "I just think that as the kids get older, you build more of a relationship with them."

He said he hoped for travel restrictions to allow his children to come to "the odd tournament".

He said: "As the kids get older, they start to understand that you're going away as well.

"And you feel a bit of guilt about leaving them and whether it's the right thing to do or not.

"There is more to miss as the family gets bigger. And I think because I was around a lot as well for a number of years like with the injuries and stuff and then with Covid and everything, like I got to be around my family all of the time.

"And then once I started traveling again yeah, like I miss being around them. I miss seeing them regularly as well."

Andy Murray faces Nikoloz Basilashvili in the first round of the Australian Open. The match is expected to begin around 4am UK time, with coverage live on Eurosport and Amazon Prime.

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