Top seed and World No. 1 Andy Murray was sent packing from the Mutua Madrid Open as he struggled to find any kind of form against Borna Coric. The Croatian lucky loser was the first to take his chance as Murray squandered two break points, before Coric converted on his own opportunities against the Brit.
Murray broke back straight away, to love but relinquished his serve immediately putting Coric back in the driving seat. This time he made no mistake, consolidating before twisting the knife and breaking the Brit once more for the first set.
Murray at least made a better fist of things in the second set, but still could not convert on the two chances he got. Another inexplicably loose game from the Brit handed Coric the chance he needed, wrapping things up on his second match point – the lucky loser will now face Dominic Thiem.
Perhaps unusually for Murray he took his time coming into press. Often the match has not long finished before the announcement comes out that he is on his way to press immediately, and this time we were the better for it.
‘Most things weren’t working particularly well’
He admitted: “Most things weren’t working particularly well. Yeah, wasn’t great. I mean, I started the match okay, but when I started to go behind, I didn’t find any way to improve my game or to make it more difficult for him. I just kind of let the same things keep happening, making mistakes very early in a lot of the rallies. I wasn’t building any points really.
“I didn’t help myself sort of find a way into the match to start playing better. That was disappointing because, you know, you’re not always going to play your best tennis, but you can still find ways to make it difficult for your opponent, and I didn’t do that at all today.”
While many think that the road to World No. 1 started purely on the grass, the seeds were sewn at this stage of the clay court season. Three successive finals with the Masters double-header in Madrid and Rome, the title in Rome and his first final in Roland Garros gave him a huge lift towards the top spot, aided by wins in Queens’ and of course a second Wimbledon title.
With the points stacking up (or rather more accurately, falling away) – where does that leave him ahead of the last two big events on the clay?
‘I definitely think I need to be concerned about today’
He surmised: “I definitely think I need to be concerned about today. It’s not always the worst thing losing a match, but it’s sometimes the manner of how you lose the match is what can be concerning or disappointing.
“Whereas my match, like, against Thiem in Barcelona, I was disappointed to lose, but I felt like I competed really well. I did some good stuff in the match, found a way to turn it around and make it, you know, a tough match for him.
“I need to think about exactly why that is, what I can do about it. you need to have the right sort of ideas, correct ideas, understand why you’re in the position you’re in. Hopefully I can do that, you know, with my team, and play better in Rome and Roland Garros.”
Full credit to Coric though, who was about to book his flight home after losing in the second round of qualies here, coming back from knee surgery and getting his first No. 1 scalp.
He recounted to reporters what it has been like to come from surgery to his first Masters quarter-final: “There was nothing else to do. I could barely walk. You don’t have any other option. I think it did take me some time to get back on track. I mean, the first two months of the season were horrendous. I was playing terrible.
“Especially because it was not very long break, I didn’t play for two and a half months. It was not like I didn’t play for the half of a year. I think it did take me some time to get back. But I think for the last two, three months I’ve been playing very good tennis again.”
Coric will meet Thiem in the quarter-final, and Murray will next play in Rome, which takes place between 14-21 May.
Featured Image Credit: Christopher Johnson for Britwatch Sports.
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