Andy Murray verdict – Post-match comments cast big doubts over his future

Andy Murray

These were the matches Andy Murray always won.

Time and again in the first week of Grand Slam events, Murray would find a way to navigate himself out of holes he often created for himself against lower-ranked opponents.

Yet he didn’t find the answers against Japan’s Taro Daniel in the second round of the Australian Open and it was the manner of his 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 defeat that will sting the most.

Coming back from hip surgery to play singles at the highest level was always likely to be tough for Murray and while he has shown patches of brilliance over the last six months on court, the sustained consistency he needs to win a succession of matches has not come.

He would have hoped that would change in Melbourne, as after a run to the final of the ATP event in Sydney, he then beat Nikoloz Basilashvili to back up the belief that he was getting back to somewhere near his best.

The doubt has always been whether Murray could cope with the physical demands of back-to-back matches in best of five set events, yet his defeat against Daniel did not appear to be down to fatigue of conditioning.

This was a story of one of the game’s greats losing some of the punch that used to allow him to fire through opponents like Daniel, but that dynamism was lacking this time.

The fight was there, it always will be, but finding the killing blows when he needed them most proved to be beyond Murray and his post-match comments confirmed he needs more than this to justify extending his career for too much longer.

“I’m really, really disappointed,” said Murray. “Very frustrated. A tough loss for me that’s for sure.”

Asked if he plans to be back in Melbourne next year, Murray said: “I mean, yeah. But not if I do what I did tonight too often this season.

“This is a really important year for me for a number of reasons and I want to perform well in the big events. For me, tonight is not good enough in that respect.

“Making second rounds of slams is not something I find particularly motivating. I want to be doing better than that. It depends on how I get on this year results wise and how I perform in the big events.”

They were comments that left little to the imagination and even though Murray has fought harder than most to get back into the draw at the Australian Open after three years away, he didn’t put himself through all the hard work on his road to recovery to lose to players of Daniel’s calibre.

This is not the end of the Andy Murray story, but it may be the start of his final chapter unless he finds a way to turn optimism into genuine success over a sustained period.