Mood has changed around Andy Murray after his crushing defeat in Dubai

Kevin Palmer
Andy Murray beaten once again
Andy Murray beaten once again

The fire has finally been extinguished inside Andy Murray.

It is almost as if he knows the game is up and the fight to continue is waning from him as his latest defeat against Ugo Humbert in Dubai highlighted the chasm in class between the 36-year-old former world No 1 and players ranked in the top 20 of the game.

Murray won just seven points on Humbert’s serve as he was beaten 6-2 6-4 by in-form Frenchman Humbert, who rarely looked troubled as he beat the two-time Wimbledon champion for the first time.

The second set was a little closer, but Murray cut a thoroughly frustrated figure as he attempted to trade with the clean-hitting Humbert, who clinched victory after only an hour and a half.

Murray has not won more than a single match at any tournament since August and speculation continues around when he will call time on his magnificent career.

After beating Denis Shapovalov on Monday, the Scot talked about trying to do his best “these last few months”, but he has now hinted he would like to keep going until at least this summer’s Olympics.

Yet on the evidence of this latest defeat, the knock-out punch Murray once had at the top of the game has left him for good, with the limp nature of his demise against Humbert suggesting he has accepted that reality.

Murray declared ‘I don’t have a clue what I’m doing’ during his defeat against Humbert and that sense of being lost on court must be hard for a great champion to deal with.

He went on to clarify his future in the post-match press conference by confirming he ‘won’t play past this summer’, in what may have been final confirmation that he is planning to retire at Wimbledon or possibly at the Paris Olympics.

During his glory years, this battling Scot was noted for finding a way to come through tight matches, but the tide has turned against him in recent years and the player we are watching now is no longer the legend of old.

READ MORE: Andy Murray reveals when he will make retirement announcement as he makes a big promise to his fans

His win against Shapovalov in round one of the Dubai tournament brought up his 500th career win on a hard court, with only Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal ahead of Murray on that list.

Statistics of that nature highlight the magnitude of the player under the spotlight and that is why many of us have found it tough to watch him go through the agonises that have become his norm in the final phases of his career.

“You look at it from the outside and feel one thing and then you try to put yourself in his shoes and you can understand why he keeps going,” commentator Jonathan Overend told Tennis365, as he prepares to lead the commentary team on the new Sky Sports Tennis channel.

“This is his life, this is his passion. All he wants to do is play tennis and compete and no one should tell him to pack the rackets away and call it a day.

“He’ll know as well as anyone when the time is right to end it. He’s going through it and doesn’t need us to tell him it’s not going well.

“The second half of last year was tough for all of us to watch and he keeps having these early defeats, but I don’t see him changing his mindset.

“He decided to go through the pre-season programme again, got himself out to Australia and clearly still believes he can compete at the highest level.

“Deciding on what comes next at the end of the year would seem logical, but how much more misery can he take if he keeps losing in the first round of tournaments?

“He’s said he doesn’t want an open-top bus parade to end his career as that is not his style,” added Overend.

“Only he will know when the time is right and I think it is likely to hit him at some point and he wakes up and thinks that’s me done.

“I’m not going to make any judgement on when Andy Murray should retire as he has more than earned the right to go out on his own terms.

“If he wants to play a full season and that involves a lot of early round defeats, then that’s his prerogative. He’s still playing tennis, doing what he loves to do and I’m sure he will give us lots of entertainment along the way this year.”

Murray clearly doesn’t want to contemplate the end of his great career, but it will soon become a reality for one of the game’s all-time greats.