Andy Murray has lost his quarter final match 4-6 3-6 2-6 to Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka at Flushing Meadows.
His US Open is over and the trophy he treasured so dearly will go to another man – Andy Murray was ushered towards the Flushing Meadows exit by Stanislas Wawrinka yesterday in a match that was as surprising as it was disappointing.
Murray was beaten by a combination of clean hitting from Wawrinka and his own muddled thinking. One of the shrewdest tacticians in the game could not decide whether to stick or twist for most of the 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 defeat and the more he fretted, the faster his error count rose. He was hitting the ball well enough – but he was belting it straight into Wawrinka’s strike zone and that could only lead to one, disappointing and depressing result.
Murray had hoped that the very fact of reaching the quarter-finals would perk him up, give him that extra edge and sharpness that had been lacking in the previous four rounds. He had come through the previous battles more or less unscathed, but he had not been himself. Now that the tournament was reaching its climax, the nerves would start to jangle and, Murray hoped, that would kick-start his campaign.
Unfortunately, Wawrinka was hoping just the same thing and, as he began to lean into his backhand and crack his forehand, he was blasting winners past the Scot’s flailing racket time and again. Wawrinka, who could be Switzerland’s No 1 player by the end of the year now that Roger Federer is on the wane, was dripping with confidence and every shot he played showed it.
Wawrinka had not been in the world’s top ten since 2008 but this year he has found a new belief and now faces a semi-final showdown with Novak Djokovic or Mikhail Youzhny, who were playing their match in the early hours of the morning.
Focusing on every round of every tournament as if it were a final, Wawrinka is more consistent and the wins have come rolling in. But, oddly, it was a defeat that first gave him the confidence to kick on to the next level and break back into the elite group at the top of the rankings.
In January, he stood toe-to-toe with Djokovic for five hours in the fourth round of the Australian Open. He lost – and Djokovic ended up winning the title a week later – but the very fact that he kept pace with the world No 1 and pushed him to 12-10 in the fifth set made Wawrinka believe that he belonged in the sport’s elite. He could compete with the very best.
“Against Djokovic, that was the match that meant so much for my confidence,” he said. “I am quite an unsure guy on the court, I always have some doubts and after that match I had the feeling that everything I was doing outside, the practice, was in the right direction.
“I just needed to keep focusing on that because my level was there and I could play for five hours against the No 1 player and he was quite impressive all the tournament and, for me, it was a loss but a victory inside. Tennis is very much in the head, the top 20 players play amazing tennis but the changes are in here, mentally. Now I am not young. At 18, 20 you don’t think too much ,and you enjoy, or try to, and you don’t see what a
victory or a loss can give you but now it is different, I am much more mature and for sure the Djokovic match was the start.”
Even if Wawrinka describes Murray as “the top of the tops”, the Swiss was playing as if he knew he was the Scot’s equal in every department. And, when Murray donated his service in a 15-minute game at the end of the first set, Wawrinka got the distinct impression that, on this particular day, he was better than his rival.
The match hung on that game. Until that point, there was nothing to separate the two men. After 35 minutes, they had each won 27 points and they stood at 4-4. But just a matter of minutes later, as Murray was serving to stay in the first set, everything went wrong. A couple of forehand errors presented Wawrinka with his first set points, a double fault gave him another and when, on the sixth set point, Murray sent another forehand sailing over the baseline, his racket bore the full brunt of his rage. He cracked it on the court and then smashed it again as he went to sit down at the change of ends.
From there, Murray never recovered. He was angry with himself and, as he allowed his frustration to fester, he could do nothing to stop Wawrinka from running away with the match. The man who had fought so hard to win the title last year let the Swiss take charge.
When Murray lost 11 points on the trot to drop his serve in the second set and allow Wawrinka to consolidate the break for a 5-2 lead, everyone knew it was only a matter of time before the misery was over and after two hours and 15 minutes, the Scot was allowed to scurry back to the locker room to lick his wounds and ponder what might have been.