It was the most bitter of bitter defeats: Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski were knocked out of the US Open men’s doubles semi-finals last night, beaten by the best team in the business.
What made the defeat so hard to take was that there was absolutely nothing between the two teams.
They were both playing all but flawless doubles, neither side was giving inch, they were as aggressive as each other and they were defending as strongly as their rivals. And still Murray and Skupski lost 7-6, 7-6.
Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah are the Wimbledon champions and the No 1 ranked team in the world. Even in the individual doubles rankings, they are inseparable: they are the joint No 1s in that list, too. By contrast, Murray and Skupski are still working their way up to the top and are currently No 39 in the team rankings. And yet there was barely a fag paper between them.
It took 75 minutes before either team forced a deuce point as Murray and Skupski piled the pressure on the Cabal serve. The first break point came six minutes later on Murray’s serve but his partner averted the danger by bossing the next point from the net.
In two hours and one minute of play, Murray and Skupski committed just six errors – and two of them were double faults. They could not have played any better and yet they were always playing catch-up. In the end, it was Skupski who faltered, thumping an overhead into the net on the third match point.
The British partnership is still a work in progress. Murray and Skupski only got together after the French Open in June but after Wimbledon, they had an enforced three week break from each other while Skupski went the US to play World Team Tennis and Murray joined his brother to play in Washington.
Since they reunited at the beginning of August, they have had time to form an understanding on court and after a first round loss at the Masters 1000 in Montreal, they have gone from strength to strength.
The confidence and the form was plain to see; all they needed was the rub of the green and they could have been in the final.
At least Murray has one more shot at glory in New York. Tomorrow he and Bethanie Mattek-Sands will try to defend their mixed doubles title when they take on Hao-Ching Chan and Michael Venus in the final.