The happiest man of the group ought to have been Leon Smith, although you would never have known by his expression.
Sitting alongside all the other glum faces in Andy Murray’s player box on Monday night, he had just watched his lead player for the upcoming Davis Cup tie against Australia lose in the fourth round of the US Open. Bundled out of the tournament 7-6, 6-3, 6-7, 7-6, Murray was out of the last grand slam of the year, the first time he had not reached the quarter-final stage or better of a major championships in 19 tournaments.
In theory, then, Smith should have taken some comfort from the fact that Murray now had a few days to rest and recover after his packed summer schedule. That, in turn, would leave him refreshed for the Davis Cup semi-final in Glasgow. But Smith, who has known the Murray clan for the best part of 20 years, was as miserable as everyone else. “There’s definitely no positive,” he muttered darkly.
Murray was clearly not at his absolute peak – three gruelling matches last week and a dose of the flu had taken their toll – but Anderson was also playing the match of his life. Serving well (he hit 25 aces), returning Murray’s stuttering serve with aplomb and cracking a total of 81 clean winners, he wore the Scot down over the course of four hours and 18 minutes.
“I was playing against an excellent player,” Murray said simply. “He served extremely well. The second set, I felt like I was starting to put pressure on him there. When I had the breakpoint at 5-3, I had a backhand pass that I really should have made. When you’re playing against players that are at that level, like him, you need to obviously make them think and then give them a chance to get nervous.
“The beginning of the fourth set, as well, I think it was his first service game, I had 15-all, hit a drop shot, mid-court forehand, then ended up winning the next couple of points. I felt like I had my opportunities there but didn’t manage to capitalise on them. When you’re playing against someone as good as him, you know, it’s tough.”
I felt like I had my opportunities there but didn’t manage to capitalise on them - when you’re playing against someone as good as him it’s toughAndy Murray
What hurt more than anything else was losing his quarter-finals record at the grand slams. That run stretches back to the US Open third round in 2010 when Stan Wawrinka upended him – since then, his consistency at the major events has been rock solid. Until now.
“That’s obviously something that is disappointing to lose,” he said. “Obviously that’s many years’ work that’s gone into building that sort of consistency. To lose that is tough.”
Murray was making no excuses. He was obviously under par, he must have been shattered but he lost and that was partly his fault for not playing well enough and partly Anderson’s fault for playing like a man possessed. The frustration was clear to see: he smashed his racket, he kept up a running commentary with the umpire, Jake Garner, and he regularly slung expletive-ridden abuse in the general direction of his box. He was picking out no one in particular and he did not mean what he said; he was just rattled that he was losing and he could not find a way to turn the match around.
“I think Kevin played very well, he put him under a lot of pressure,” Smith said. “There’s obviously a bit of fatigue from the length of the matches and the amount of court time he came in with before that match. I still thought it was a good quality match but I think when Kevin got that two sets lead, it was going to be tough because of the sort of form that he’s in and the way that he plays. He doesn’t really dip, Kevin; he just keeps a certain level so it was important probably to get one of the first two sets to keep in touching distance. He fought hard again, Andy, kept competing but maybe that extended court time that he had before he and Kevin played had something to do with it.”
While the loss is disappointing, in the general scheme of things, it does not alter the fact that Murray has had an exceptional year. Now with a few days off to recharge his batteries – he is not sure what he will do, or where, but he knows he will be “pretty much horizontal” for a couple of days – he can look forward to the Davis Cup and the chance to take Britain to their first final since 1978.
Johanna Konta was the last Briton to leave the building in Flushing Meadows after she was beaten 7-5, 6-3 by Petra Kvitova late on Monday night. But unlike Murray, she left with a spring in her step.
Unfazed by appearing in the huge Arthur Ashe stadium and giving as good as she got against the world No 4, Konta looked perfectly at home.
She was not good enough to win but she felt like she belonged at this level – and now, ranked in the world’s top 60 for the first time, she cannot wait to kick on and get back on the road.
“I think I stayed true to how I wanted to play out there,” she said. “I felt that I competed really well, just stayed calm. Really rolled with the punches. There’s a lot of things going on here. “
• Wimbledon finalists Jamie Murray and John Peers marched into the doubles semi-finals in New York yesterday beating the hugely experienced pair of Marcin Matkowski and Nenad Zimonjic 3-6, 6-3, 7-6.
Andy Murray’s US Open record
2015: Fourth round, lost to Kevin Anderson
2014: Quarter-final, lost to Novak Djokovic
2013: Quarter-final, lost to Stan Wawrinka
2012: Champion, beat Djokovic in final
2011: Semi-final, lost to Rafael Nadal
2010: Third round, lost to Wawrinka
2009: Fourth round, lost to Marin Cilic
2008: Final, lost to Roger Federer
2007: Third round, lost to Lee Hyung-taik
2006: Fourth round, lost to Nikolay Davydenko
2005: Second round, lost to Arnaud Clément