Eventually Andy Murray will get a day off – just not for a while yet. No sooner had the world No 2 walked off court, beaten in the quarter-finals of the US Open, than he had to refocus sights on the Davis Cup and another weekend of high-pressure, high-octane competition.
Maybe if Murray had not been quite so successful over the past few months he would have beaten Kei Nishikori in New York. The Scot has barely had time to think since the start of the clay court season back in May. Reaching seven consecutive tournament finals, he has lost only four matches in more than four months and collected the Wimbledon and Olympic titles along the way. He has not been home in weeks and he is looking weary.
Even so, he was cruising against the Japanese at a set and a break to the good when the fates conspired against him. First it was the rain. That caused the roof to be closed over the Arthur Ashe stadium so slowing down the conditions, taking the sting out of Murray’s serve and allowing Nishikori to land a few returns.
Then the sound system in the cavernous arena intervened with the speakers pumping out a loud ringing noise, like a church bell, just as Murray was on the verge of converting a break point in the fourth set. Ordered to replay the point, Murray was furious and his concentration was broken. He spoke to the umpire, Marija Cicak, and to the tournament referee, Wayne McKewen, but their explanations did nothing to help.
“They stopped the point, and I was just curious why that was,” Murray said. “Wayne McKewen told me that it happened four times during the match that the speakers had gone off like that. I had only heard it one time before, which was on set point in the second set.”
Had he been a little fresher, maybe he could have regrouped more quickly, but as it was, Nishikori won seven games on the bounce and the Scot’s chances of reaching the semi-finals were slipping away.
After nearly four hours of grind and graft, Murray lost 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 but he sounded too tired to be upset by the loss.
“I’m not disappointed in a way,” he said. “Obviously I would have loved to have won, but I have had a good run every match. I would have loved to have gone further, but it wasn’t to be.
“I lost my serve a couple of times from positions when I was up in the game. I got broken once from 40-Love, once from 40-15, and at the end of the match I think I was up 30-15 in the game, as well. That was the difference.
“I could have won the match for sure. But I have also won some over the last, you know, few months I should have lost. It happens sometimes. You win them. I have won a lot over the last few months, but couldn’t quite get it going my way today.”
He is going to try and get a couple of days to himself before he travels to Glasgow for the Davis Cup but time is pressing. He may well need to play both singles and doubles, three best-of-five set matches in three days, if Britain are to beat Argentina and reach another final. Protecting and conserving what few reserves of energy Murray has left will be vital to the cause.
“I don’t know when I’ll go to Glasgow,” he said. “I don’t know how many days off I’ll take or how much or when I’ll start practising up there. I’m due a few days off, and I’ll use them well, because I will need a lot of energy for that tie.”
The only upside to Wednesday’s defeat is that he now has a little more time to prepare for the Davis Cup than if he had reached his goal and got to the final. It was not much to cling on to but for a weary world No 2, it was enough for now.