Murray The Mope Out
September 8, 2009 -- Today was the day for a shocker on the men's side at the U. S. Open. Andy Murray, seeded #2, was crushed by Croatia's Marin Cilic in singles competition. A majority predicted Murray as a strong contender for this title, which would have been his first Grand Slam. At last year's Open Murray was runner up to Champion Roger Federer.
But there was no way that the Andy Murray who appeared today on center stage at the Open would win anything, let alone a berth the quarterfinals.
After Cilic won the first set by saving two set points, Murray increasingly appeared lackluster and annoyed. He moped along the baseline after he lost a point or missed a forehand he probably figured he should have had. As the match progressed, Murray slowly revealed a former self recognized for bratty behavior and outbursts most likely directed at his box filled with coaches, trainers, his girlfriend and Judy his mother. Last year at Indian Wells Master 1000 Series tournament one fan heard Murray say to his coach, "Why don't you love me." This persona had been buried, though, for well over a year. Therefore the revival of the mercurial Scot gave way to thoughts of Lestat, a leading vampire character in an Anne Rice novel.
Murray did next to nothing to alter his game strategy or his slide into darkness. For a #2 seeded player, with what many call the best return game out there, his failure to handle Cilic's serve was also mysterious.
It was Cilic's high-performance serve and Murray's disappointing returns that really sunk the Scot's ship. And his serve is Cilic's best shot.
His deep knee bend and arched back are reminiscent of players from prior decades. Cilic comes from a long line of great servers born and raised in Croatia, such as Goran Ivanisevic the 2001 Wimbledon champion. Goran noticed Cilic early in his young career and brought him to the attention of the tennis world in his country. Other noteworthy big-serving Croats are Ivan Ljubicic, Mario Ancic, and the #1 doubles player in the world Nenad Zimonjic.
At times during their match Murray rubbed his left wrist and winced as if in pain. But he never called the trainer during the three-set drubbing. Trainers are available to players, male or female, at any time and can be called when needed. In the past Murray has been accused of using medical timeouts to his advantage, calling them when down in a match or when he seemed to need a break from the action.
Since the end of the 2008 season Murray has focused a great deal of attention and time on improved fitness, strength, and movement on court - another asset he possesses in spades. Murray moved to Miami in order to train in sweltering heat and humidity so he could be primed for the tropical atmosphere of the American hard court tennis season and, more importantly, the five-set heat-down New York City normally dumps on competitors during the two weeks of the Open.
Murray's loss today of 75 62 62 certainly puts a different spin on the bottom half of the men's singles draw. Rafael Nadal's (#3) chances of advancement have just improved, although he has suffered from a strained abdominal muscle during the tournament. The terrain has been affected for Juan Martin Del Potro (#6), too, who advanced to his fourth quarterfinal at a major when he beat Juan Carlos Ferrero 63 63 63 today.
Cilic (#16) will play Del Potro next. Both men top out at six-foot-six inches in height, so the two towering sports figures should put on quite a show.
The 20-year-old's win today was the biggest of his career -- his first defeat of a top five player. Cilic has three titles. He won in Zagreb, Croatia, on indoor hard courts and at Chennai, India, on outdoor hard courts this year. His first title was Pilot Pen Tennis at New Haven in 2008.