ANDY MURRAY’S Wimbledon joy came to a juddering halt yesterday after Olympic success, a moment that ended 77 years of waiting for a homegrown men’s singles champion and a run of 17 games unbeaten at the hallowed venue.
The defending champion crashed out of The Championships, defeated emphatically by a player he admitted “played much better than me from the beginning to the end”.
Summing it up as a bad day at the office, Murray, who had looked imperious on his way through to the quarter-finals, was a shadow of his former self, losing 6-1, 7-6, 6-2 to Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov.
From not dropping a single set throughout his previous four rounds, he could not win one in front of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and an expectant crowd on Centre Court yesterday.
“The fire was still there. My game was just not where I would have liked it to be. I hit the ball well in practice. I hit the ball fine in the warm-up. I just played badly. I’m disappointed with that. Obviously, I have to have a think about maybe why that was,” said Murray.
He was at a loss for answers during the match, though. A disconsolate figure as he mulled over his premature exit from a Grand Slam where he was looking to secure his sixth successive semi-final appearance, the fact that it was not the first time he felt he had been lacking on the main stage this year was a major reason for the concern.
“Look, I played very well for the first four matches. I played very good tennis. I played a high level. Then today wasn’t like that, so it’s disappointing. I feel like if I hit the ball, struck the ball like I had done against Anderson in the round before, the match could have been a lot closer than what it was.
“I need to go away and make a lot of improvements in my game. I’ve lost a couple of matches in the last few slams where I’ve lost in straight sets and played poorly. So I need to have a think about what things I need to improve, and get myself in better shape and work even harder. Because everyone’s starting to get better. The younger guys are now obviously becoming more mature and improving all the time.”
It was only nine months since he had his back surgery and that has impacted on his training and he still doesn’t feel he is back at his best. He also parted with his coach Ivan Lendl and surprised many by enlisting the services of former Wimbledon ladies’ singles winner Amelie Mauresmo ahead of the grass court season. It was agreed to review the partnership after Wimbledon, but Murray made it clear that the Frenchwoman would not be made scapegoat and spoke of how much he has enjoyed working with her.
“The last few months, yeah, I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed being on the practice court, especially the last few weeks with Amélie. It’s been different.
“I need to make some improvements in my game. I need to get on the practice court soon, because now there’s time before the next bunch of tournaments to do that, to make improvements. But I’ll also need to have a think for a few days about how it is I’m going to go about that.”
It was after he lost to Roger Federer in the 2012 final that he really dug deep, working harder on his physical and mental approach, determined to come back stronger and win the title. The fact that he succeeded will drive him on again.
With a new generation finding their way through to the business end of Grand Slams, the big four of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, who were given a scare before they eventually came through tough matches yesterday, and Rafael Nadal and Murray no longer have everything their own way. The pretenders to the throne have thrown down the gauntlet and Murray does not believe he is too old to pick it up.
“When I stop thinking I have a chance of winning these tournaments I’ll stop playing tennis,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of hard losses in my career, but also with some big highs. This is obviously one of the hard ones. The only way for me to get better or win these tournaments again is to make improvements because other guys are getting better.”