Murray in need of ‘long hard think’ after bruising French Open defeat

hannahwilks in French Open 27 Sep 2020
Andy Murray lost in the first round of the French Open to Stan Wawrinka (ChrysleneCaillaud/Panoramic)

Andy Murray was left without answers on and off the court after a one-sided defeat to Stan Wawrinka at the French Open.

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For the second Grand Slam in a row, Murray lost in straight sets, this time getting just six games against Wawrinka as they clashed in the first round of the French Open.

Murray was playing his first match at the French Open since 2017, when he lost to Wawrinka in a four-hour, 34-minute semifinal which pushed both men beyond their physical limits. But Sunday’s match on Court Philippe-Chatrier failed to deliver any comparable drama as Wawrinka took just 100 minutes to win 6-1, 6-3, 6-2.

The one-sided defeat left Murray admitting he needs to go back to the drawing board.

‘I need to have a long hard think about it. It’s not the sort of match I would just brush aside and not think about it. I think that’s one of the worst defeats by scoreline in my career. I need to understand why the performance was like that.’

The impact of that 2017 semifinal battle continues to reverberate in both men’s careers to this day. Neither would play more than a handful of matches for the remainder of the 2017 season. Wawrinka underwent multiple knee surgeries, and has not yet been able to make his way back into the top 10, although he resembles his old self much more than Murray – the 2015 French Open champion is ranked world no. 17 and has been able to make the quarterfinals of three of the past four majors, including last year’s Roland Garros.

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Murray, of course, struggled for two years to rehab his injured hip before undergoing hip resurfacing surgery in January 2019 when on the brink of retirement. He had some success when he returned to the singles court in the summer, including winning the European Open in Antwerp where he beat Wawrinka in the final. But fallout from his surgery kept him off the court for the beginning of the 2020 season, which was then shut down until mid-August. The British player is currently ranked world no. 111.

Wawrinka hit 42 winners despite slow, heavy conditions (Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA)

Wawrinka proved he will have no difficulty in hitting through the unusually cold, slow and heavy conditions at this year’s autumn French Open as he struck 42 winners over the course of the match. After Murray held to open, he was broken three times to lose the first set 1-6 and the match was never anything over than one-way traffic from that point on.

Murray’s serving was particularly problematic. He landed 36% of his first serves in the match, saving only two of the eight break points with which he was faced.

Murray was left balancing praise for his opponent with excoriating his own performance, saying:

‘Today was a really tough draw and even if I played well there’s no guarantees I would win that match but today I didn’t play well. I served less than 40%, that’s just not good enough.

‘I haven’t served like that… that’s nothing to do with my hip. Mistiming returns and serving at 38% that’s got nothing to do with that. That’s something I need to look at with my team. There’s been matches I’ve served well since I came back, that’s not a physical issue.’

Murray and Wawrinka meet at the net (ChrysleneCaillaud/Panoramic)

Wawrinka moves on to face the in-form Dominik Koepfer, who recently made the quarterfinals of the Rome Masters as a qualifier, in the second round and is on a potential collision course with Dominic Thiem in the fourth round.

Murray goes back to the drawing board, although he struck a defiant note:

‘Zverev was a couple of points from winning the US Open and I’d won against him the week before. I’ll keep going. Let’s see what the next few months hold. I reckon I won’t play a match like that between now and the end of the year.’

It was a poor day for British players all round, with Dan Evans losing 6-1, 1-6, 6-7(3), 6-1, 4-6 to Kei Nishikori. He would not have been expected to do very well in Paris, but Johanna Konta, seeded ninth and a semifinalist at the French Open in 2019, was another matter. She also suffered a one-sided defeat to a tough opponent, losing 3-6, 3-6 to Coco Gauff.