Andy Murray makes honest confession after Monte-Carlo horror show
If Andy Murray wanted answers about his clay court pedigree at this stage of his career, he got them in alarming fashion in Monte-Carlo.
As the three-time Grand Slam champion made what appeared to be an apologetic wave to the crowd looking down on his first appearance in the tournament since 2017, he must have wondered whether his glorious career was coming to an end.
Britain’s greatest sportsman of all-time clearly felt embarrassed by his error-strewn performance against Alex De Minaur in the first round of the Monte-Carlo Masters and it will be fascinating to see what comes next.
The 35-year-old, who skipped all but one tournament of 2022’s clay court swing, including the French Open, was blown away 6-1 6-3 by De Minaur, who is far from being a clay court expert and that should tell Murray all he needs to know about this clay court experiment at the back end of his career.
Questions will now be raised about how long Murray will persist on the surface that he finds most difficult to play on following his hip surgery and even if he is playing on clay in a bid to get his ranking high enough to secure a seeded for what might be his final crack at Wimbledon in July, he needs to see the warning signs now.
On grass courts, Murray may still believe he can enjoy a run in big events, but there is no point in him taking up a place in clay court tournaments if he is going to play as he did against De Minaur.
In addition, he might be threatening his hopes of playing at Wimbledon this summer as clay courts may be more likely to affect his fitness levels ahead of the time of the year when he can thrive.
Murray would now be wise to step back from clay courts and take the next six weeks getting himself ready for the grass court season.
That may include another appearance at the LTA event at Surbiton, where he lost in the semi-finals last season, as well as a shot at the Queen’s Club title he has won on a record-breaking five occasions.
Murray fans will not have enjoyed his lacklustre display in Monte-Carlo and neither will this proud sportsman who has always set himself such high standards.
If he is on a farewell tour that includes playing in some big event for a final time before he hangs up his rackets later this year, maybe his experience in Monte-Carlo ticked a box.
Yet this is not how tennis wants to remember one of it’s true greats, who admitted in an interview with The Herald that he may now give up on his clay court comeback.
“It was awful,” said Murray. “Nothing was good about it. I don’t know exactly why that was. Obviously I didn’t play a great match in Miami and this was worse than that.
“I didn’t do anything well, didn’t serve well, return well, forehands, backhands, shot selection. It was one of the worst I’ve played in my career, probably.
“I had a match like that last year in Doha against (Roberto) Bautista (Agut) that was pretty bad and maybe one or two others in my career, but in terms of how I felt on the court, it was right up there, just across the board.
“I was feeling optimistic coming into the clay. I’d been feeling good with my body the last 10 days or so considering I’ve not played much on it.
“I was feeling good and I’d actually been moving pretty well in practice, so I was optimistic. But it was pretty demoralising and I’ve not felt like that many times in my career on the court. It was really tough.”
After an early exit in the Miami Open was followed by this miserable defeat in Monte-Carlo, Murray may be revising his clay court plans over the next few weeks.
He may even be close to concluding he doesn’t need to put himself through any more defeats to accept his dream of reviving his glory days are forlorn.
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