Andy Murray suffers another excruciating defeat by Alex de Minaur as Scot smashes racket in frustration
The 36-year-old Scot won more points than De Minaur, had a match point on his serve and played some sumptuous tennis in the French capital, yet Murray’s hex against this particular opponent goes on. This is his sixth successive defeat by the Australian – four of them have come in 2023 – and the match charted a similar path to their meeting in Beijing last month, when Murray failed to close out the match and lost in a tie-break.
This time it was 7-6 (7/5) 4-6 7-5 to De Minaur, who moves on to face either local wildcard Benjamin Bonzi or Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic in the second round. Murray – who has not progressed past the first hurdle in the French capital since 2016 – is due to play in Metz next week at a 250 event. There was anguish and anger written all over his face as he left the indoor centre court in Bercy, having smashed up his racket following the handshake with a man who is fast becoming his nemesis.
De Minaur has now beaten Murray in Zhuhai, twice in London, Monte Carlo, Beijing and Paris. If they played on the moon, the Australian would likely still win. It was telling that Murray heavily trails the head-to-head as he tried to close the match out, unable to find his best shots. The three-time slam champion has performed well in 2023 but there have been too many near misses as well as excellent results. Having lost a close first set in a tie-break, Murray impressively regrouped to take the second set 6-4 and as De Minaur’s forehand started to unravel, Murray broke twice in the final set to engineer a 5-2 lead but the Australian, famous for being a fighter, dug in and clawed his way back on the scoreboard. Once he broke back to make it 5-5, Murray was so discombobulated that the writing was on the wall. Game, set and match De Minaur followed not long after.
This is the sort of victory that must surely make Murray, for so long a serial winner, question why he is doing grinding away with a metal hip, desperately trying to chisel out one last hurrah. His most dispiriting defeat of this season came at Wimbledon when losing a second-round thriller to Stefanos Tsitsipas – that half of the draw completely opened up – and his goal is to go deep at a major tournament, but this loss will run the SW19 defeat close in the pain stakes. A run in Paris would have enhanced his chances of being seeded for the Australian Open in January, but that aspiration is all but over now.
Murray will hope to perform better in Metz ahead of the Davis Cup finals in Malaga next month. Without the injured Dan Evans, whose season is over after damaging a calf muscle, Great Britain captain Leon Smith will hope the Scot can play a leading part. Cameron Norrie, another mainstay of the team, has pulled out of Paris this week as a precautionary measure to make sure he is fit, while youngster Jack Draper has dropped down to Challenger level this week in Bergamo, northern Italy, to get matches under his belt.