A TIRED Andy Murray paid the price for his unexpected success on clay by withdrawing from the Italian Open.
The world No 3 had made it ten wins in a row on Wednesday with a straight-sets victory over Frenchman Jeremy Chardy that put him into the last 16 in Rome.
That followed his first back-to-back ATP Tour titles on clay in Munich and Madrid, where he gained an impressive victory over Rafael Nadal on Sunday which hinted at a strong run in the forthcoming French Open.
The two-times Grand Slam winner was due to play Belgium’s David Goffin for a place in the quarter-finals but his impressive run came to an abrupt end when he announced before the scheduled start that he was pulling out due to fatigue.
Murray said he felt “pretty exhausted” after practising for 40 minutes yesterday morning.
“I’m very tired just now and I need to take a break,” said Murray. “I didn’t expect to do what I’ve done the past few weeks. My body has never been through that before on the clay. It’s a surface I’ve always struggled on physically. My body’s always found the surface difficult. This year, it’s been very good.
I’m going to take a few days’ rest, not go on the court.Andy Murray
“I also don’t want to risk making it worse; in the past, I’ve maybe trained too much. I wanted to play in this event. It’s a big tournament, a lot of points on offer. The time of year is tough on everyone and it’s just one of those things.
“There’s no long-term injuries to worry about. Things are a little bit stiff and sore because of the amount of matches I’ve played. It wasn’t just about today’s match. It was about the rest of the tournament… and further down the line the possibility of getting sick and missing five, six or seven days.”
Murray went into the clay-court season on the back of just a week’s practice in Barcelona and admitted on Wednesday that his recent schedule was starting to take its toll, saying: “My legs were a bit tired at the beginning.”
The French Open starts in Paris on 24 May.
Murray added: “I’m going to take a few days’ rest. I won’t train; I won’t go on the court. I just need a few days to recover.
“I’ll go home and spend a few days at home, maybe see my physio a little bit over the weekend to try and help the recovery process.
“I’ll try to rest and sleep and recover. That’s what I need to do right now. Hopefully, I’ll get to Paris early next week and get some good days’ training.”
On court, Nadal became the first player to break John Isner’s serve in nearly a month, and he did it twice in a 6-4, 6-4 win to reach the quarter-finals.
Isner, the 16th seed, held serve in 84 consecutive games stretching back to his last meeting with Nadal on 16 April in the Monte Carlo Masters, when Nadal broke him in the third set and went on to win.
This time, Nadal broke to take a 3-2 lead in the first set with a forehand winner that landed on the line on his first break point.
Then the Spaniard produced a whipping forehand return pass up the line off Isner’s second serve to go up 5-4 in the second, and quickly closed it out from there.
“When I had chances I took advantage,” Nadal said. “My serve was perfect the whole match. I played with [few] mistakes.”
Nadal will face eighth-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka, who beat Dominic Thiem of Austria 7-6 (3), 6-4.
Roger Federer had a 6-3, 7-5 win over big-serving South African Kevin Anderson. Anderson served 14 aces to Federer’s four, and matched the 17-time Grand Slam champion with 22 winners, but never really put Federer under pressure.
Seventh-seeded David Ferrer defeated fellow Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-1, 6-3. Ferrer’s quarter-final opponent will be Goffin.
In the women’s event, Serena Williams withdrew due to a right elbow injury as second seed Simona Halep routed 1999 Rome champion Venus Williams 6-2, 6-1.
Maria Sharapova eliminated Serbian qualifier Bojana Jovanovski 6-3, 6-3 and Carla Suarez Navarro defeated Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard 6-7 (2), 7-5, 7-6 (7).
American qualifier Christina McHale made the last eight when Serena Williams withdrew.