The former world’s No. 1 Andy Murray said that he played at “only top-70, top-60 level” after losing to the Australian rising star Alex de Minaur in a close three-set tussle at the Zhuhai Championship. The Brit was hoping he could follow up his victory over the world’s No. 69, Tennys Sandgren, which was his first ATP singles win since January.
He was one step into the quarter-finals after winning the opening set, but the seventh seed outlasted him 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 in a contest which lasted nearly three hours.
Murray got off to a slow start in the opening set as De Minaur broke him in the third game. However, the 32-year old managed to bounce back and even things out at 3-3 before breaking his opponent 3-3 in the 10th to win the set.
De Minaur then clicked it up a notch in the second set and Murray was unable to match his intensity. The Australian swing it into high gear starting with an early break and then adding one more in game seven, before serving to take the match into a decider.
The Scot didn’t have enough energy in the tank to pull off a comeback this time, and De Minaur capitalized on Murray’s weak second serve to find himself serving for the match. This proved no easy task for the young star who had to fend off three break points against a rejuvenated Murray. Unfortunately for the three-time Grand Slam champion, De Minaur used the second match point to secure the quarter-finals.
Murray is still trying to find his form after the hip resurfacing operation he had in January, and will now focus on the next week’s China Open, where he’ll find himself along with the reigning ATP Finals champion Sasha Zverev and the two-time French Open finalist Dominic Thiem
Despite the loss, Murray was pleased with his performance this week. My movement was much better than it was six weeks ago, eight weeks ago. It’s nice to finish a long match like that (the Sandgren win) and not have pain in my hip and problems sleeping afterwards.
He also admitted that he was worried that he might not recover in time after the three-setter with Sandgren two days earlier. Yesterday was the first time in my entire career that I didn’t practice the day before a match. I was tired after the first round and tried to rest and recover as much as possible.
While at times Murray’s shot-playing resembled of his three-time Grand Slam-winning, he’s still not raising expectations. Since return to competition in August, Murray made it abundantly clear that he’ll be starting from scratch and that the recovery will take some time.
With the muscles around his hip still healing and strengthening, he is far from top speed. After having to reform his technique to compensate for the painful hip, Muray is still rediscovering what is it like to play pain-free.
The signs of recovery were reassuring in the match against De Minaur as he chased down drop shots, defended the Australian’s biggest blows, and read the game as fluently as ever. Be that as it may, he’s still aware that he has a long way to go before realistically competing for the biggest titles.