but Brit rages after losing controversial first set
Andy Murray can play some fine tennis and mix it with the best but his confidence and concentration are still a long way short of his Grand Slam-winning form last summer.
That much was evident when his focus on the job completely deserted him on two occasions in the course of a 7-5, 6-3 defeat to Novak Djokovic, tinged by controversy and marked by sharp momentum changes.
By losing in the last eight of the Sony Open, a title he won twelve months ago, Murray falls to number eight in the rankings and now, to coin a phrase, he can concentrate on the Cup.
Controversy: Djokovic’s racquet clearly crosses the net at a crucial point
Cause for complaint: Murray discusses the call with Djokovic and then the umpire (right)
Next week he will travel to Naples where Great Britain face Italy on clay in the Davis Cup quarter finals, and while the crowd may be more hostile at least he will not have to face the relentless consistency of the world number two.
Murray actually handled that admirably for long stages and looked Djokovic’s equal, but he could not maintain focus in remotely the same way as in their Wimbledon final.
The most notable example came after an umpiring clanger right under the nose of chair official Damien Steiner on the first point at 5-6, when he somehow missed the fact that an impetuous Djokovic played a simple putaway volley illegally over the net.
An incensed Murray approached the net and invited the official and his opponent to reverse the point’s outcome. The grievance was legitimate but he let it affect him far too much and dropped the next three points and the set.
‘If it was over the net, it was over, and I was right to complain and that’s it,’ said Murray, who with understatement added that it had a ‘slight bearing’ on the rest of the game.
Shake on it: The two players made up and finished the match
Bridge too far: Murray could not play his way back into the game after losing the first set
‘I went and asked Novak, and he told me he was over the net. That was it.’ Djokovic claimed somewhat disingenuously afterwards that he did not know he had done anything wrong.
The supposed respect and friendship among the top players was showed up in all its glorious irrelevance by that, but really the key point had come in the previous game.
Murray had been causing more and more problems against serve, and the pressure brought two straight double faults to give him a first break point. Yet his self-belief c is still clearly not where it was and he thudded a forehand into the net early in the rally .
The 26 year-old Scot gathered himself for the second set and, apparently fired by indignation, broke to go 3-2 up.
Raging: Murray looks angry as Djokovic makes his case
Keen eye: Movie star Kevin Spacey watches the action as it unfolds
But he immediately dropped serve to love, with two double faults sealing his fate. Thereafter he did not have the spirit to fight back again and the match completely slipped away, with Djokovic winning at a canter.
Yet it was hard to argue with Murray’s analysis afterwards that he is making some progress following back surgery, not to mention the split with Ivan Lendl which disrupted his preparations here.
He played well in the previous two matches and there were some glorious flurries in this match: ‘If someone had told me after the surgery this is where I would be going into April, it wouldn’t be too far from where I would have liked to have been,’ he said.
No 1 fan: Murray’s girlfriend Kim Sears watches from the stands in Miami
Basking: Sears looks relaxed in the Miami heat on Wednesday evening
‘I think my game is just about there. It’s not far off. I had many opportunities today like 30 all games and Love 30s on his serve, but I didn’t serve so well when I went ahead in the second set.
‘I would have liked to have done that better, but, I was hitting the ball better from the back of the court. I was playing aggressive. I was taking the ball early. I was trying to come forward a bit.’
The chances of Great Britain causing an upset against the Italians were probably enhanced by this result, and also by news of a possible injury to their number one player Fabio Fognini.
The world No 14 is heading back home to have an MRI scan on the left quad muscle that clearly troubled him during his limp 6-2 6-2 defeat to Rafael Nadal in the fourth round here.
‘This was my injury at the beginning of the year,’ he said afterwards. ‘I’ve been getting worse day by day, there has been some pain.’
Source : Daily Mail