Even after the heaviest loss of his Roland Garros Grand Slam career, Andy Murray had more than a touch of defiance as he crashed out last night in the first round of the French Open, vowing, “I don’t expect to play another match like this until the end of the year.”
Murray’s 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 loss to Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland mirrored the defeat he suffered in the 2014 Paris semifinals to Rafael Nadal – in terms of the number of games won – but there is no contrast between the two matches.
Last night, the Scot was beaten and outplayed by Wawrinka, the 2015 French Open champion and a three-time Slam champion alongside Murray, in cool and windy conditions.
Murray acknowledged that for a long time he would have to replay the match to find out why he played so badly and acknowledges that it will be almost difficult to physically get back to where he was before his hip surgery at the beginning of 2019.
But the 33-year-old said there was no excuse for him not to be able to hit the ball as hard as he ever did.
“There have been games I’ve played since I’ve come back where I’ve hit the ball well,” he said. I know it wasn’t the best match sometimes, but [Alexander] Zverev was a couple of points away from winning the US Open, and the week before, I won against him.
Playing at the same pace as before is going to be difficult for me. I mean, I’m 33 now, and I was World No. 1, but with all the issues I’ve had, it’s hard.
“But yeah, I’m going to keep going. Let’s see. Let’s see what the next few months bring, and I don’t expect to play another match like this until the end of the year.”
In his assessment of his results, Murray was brutally frank, a match he started with a perfect drop shot but in which nothing else worked.
With just 36 percent of his first serves hitting their target, his serves were well below his average, and his returns, typically a strength in his game, were inaccurate, finding the frame as much as the center of his strings.
At the same time, Wawrinka was completely on top of his game, whose sheer power could smash holes in a wall, hitting 42 winners to Murray’s 10 while making just 27 unforced mistakes, a good ratio at the best of times.
He’ll remember beating Wawrinka in Antwerp last year en route to the title when the sand settles and Murray is back home preparing his next step, he’ll remember beating Wawrinka last year en route to the title, he’ll remember he didn’t play a warm-up tournament and that his game is not conducive to the cold, damp conditions.
Yet he knows that a few tough months lie ahead. The good news is, he appears to be willing to do whatever it takes.
“Obviously [it was]an extremely tough draw,” he said. It would not have been a guarantee, even though I had played very well, that I would win the match.
“But I also didn’t play well. I put under 40 percent first serves on court, that’s just not good enough,
That’s just not good enough, really, against anyone, and particularly against someone as good as Stan. In the 60 per cent zone, you want to serve. And, well, for the rest of the tournament, you’re not going to see many players serve below 40 percent. It just isn’t nice enough.
I have to think about it for a long and hard time. It’s not the kind of match for me that I’d just put aside and not think about it.
“There are explanations for such a result, of course. I think in terms of the outcome… Perhaps this was the worst defeat of my Grand Slam career. If that’s the case, I’m not sure. So I should carefully examine it and try to understand why the performance was like that.’
But don’t expect him to turn into a “bashers,” or a “serve and volleyer.” someone who cranks winners for fun.
‘I was an aggressive baseline player when I played my best tennis and that’s what I need to make sure I do,’ he said.
But like tonight, when you’re serving at 36% and you’re losing a lot of second serving returns, it’s hard to play like that. So, well, I need to play better, I guess, so that I can play the right way.
Two tournaments in Cologne, Germany, the week after the French Open, in the relative comfort of indoor hard courts, will be next for Murray.
It will not be quick, but Murray is ready for more hard work after what he’s been through.