LONDON: World No.1 Andy Murray produced a lacklustre display as he suffered a shock 7-6(4), 6-2, loss to Australian lucky loser Jordan Thompson in the first round of the Aegon Championships.
Seeking a rejuvenation in his game following a roller coaster clay-court swing, the Brit struggled to control his emotions against Thompson, a player who reached the final of the Surbiton Challenger last week. Murray’s unsettling glares towards his camp was a reflection of his unease on the court. Struggling to maintain a consistent balance in his game, shouts of frustration erupted in front of the packed crowd at the Queen’s Club in London.
“He played better than me. That’s what happened.” Said Murray. “The first set there was not much in it. I made some mistakes in the middle part of the tiebreak, which gifted it to him a little bit.”
“I didn’t create loads of chances, really. I didn’t return particularly well. He served big. He served well.” The 30-year-old added.
The top seed had his work cut out from the onset against an inspire Thompson, who came in as a late replacement for Aljaz Bedene. Saving a trio of break points in his opening service game, it was Murray that was battling to keep up with the world No.90. In the clutch moments, Murray failed to shine after dropping his serve three times in the tiebreaker to hand his opponent the opening set.
With a shock brewing, there was no signs of a Murray fight back as his mood deteriorated. His normally reliable mental strength abandoned him as he dropped serve two consecutive times in the second set before experiencing his worst defeat at the Queen’s tournament since 2006.
“I said before the tournament there was still a lot of work to be done, and after the French Open I knew that I was still quite far from where I needed to be. I mean, one tournament doesn’t change all of what had gone on just beforehand.” He admitted.
Ironically Murray might be hoping for a repeat of his troublesome recent weeks. Leading up to the French Open, he suffered a series of of below-par results at three consecutive Masters 1000 tournaments. Still, he managed to reach the semifinals at Roland Garros. During the French Open, he once said that playing in major tournaments enhances the competitive side of him.
“It has happened in the past where guys haven’t done well and gone on to do well at Wimbledon. There are no guarantees that I won’t do well at Wimbledon, but it certainly would have helped to have had more matches. That’s always been the case for me.”
12 months later
The mood of the Murray camp is different to that of 12 months ago. In 2016 the Brit was unbeaten on the grass by winning both Queen’s and Wimbledon. This time round, Murray carries the burden of expectation associated with being a number one player.
Addressing the media in London, Murray was very businessman like and showed little emotion. It was almost like his loss wasn’t such a huge surprise. A perplexing view for a player of Murray’s Calibre. The actual game of the world No.1 remains the same, but his confidence is different to that of a year ago.
“I don’t feel like loads of my game has changed, but obviously right now I’m not playing as well as I was 12 months ago. Most of that comes down to confidence in matches.” He explained.
“It’s not so much that I have changed my serve or my technique as much. It’s just when you’re playing a lot of matches and winning consistently helps you make better decisions at important moments.”
Faced with the unfamiliar situation of no ATP wins on a grass-court prior to Wimbledon, Murray is going back to the drawing board with his team. The roller coaster journey for the world No.1 continues as his hopes at SW19 hang in the balance.
Denis Shapovalov Handles Opelka To Reach Australian Open Fourth Round
The Canadian managed to get past his 6ft 11 American opponent in a match that lasted over three hours.
Denis Shapovalov is into the fourth round of the Australian Open after beating 23rd seed Reilly Opelka 7-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in three hours and two minutes on Margeret Court Arena.
The Canadian hit 39 winners and served 10 aces while limiting Opelka to just 17 aces. In contrast the American finished the match with a costly 46 unforced errors as Shapovalov booked his spot in the second week of the tournament.
” I think I did a really good job against Reilly (Opelka) today and I took a lot of my chances and managed to get a read on his serve,” said the world No.14.
Both players were doing a good job early on when it came to holding serve and at 3-3 it was the Toronto native who had three chances to break. On his third opportunity broke serve with his trademark backhand winner.
However, that break didn’t last long for Shapovalov as he struggled to consolidate the break and ultimately gave the break right back with a poor service game and it was back on serve at 4-4.
The first was decided by a tiebreaker and Shapovalov got the crucial break to take a 3-1 lead in the breaker which was enough for him to take the first set.
The second frame was much like the first with both players holding serve until 3-3 when Opelka broke serve. He was able to consolidate and serve out the set to level the match.
The third set stayed on serve until 3-2 and the momentum swung back in the Canadians favor. He got the break of serve this time using his forehand to great effect and served out the third to take a two sets to one lead.
Just like the third set the fourth set had no breaks until 3-2 when again the number 14 seed broke Opelka serve again and that break of serve was enough for him to serve out the match and the win.
After the match in his post-match interview, he was asked how he was able to limit his opponent to just 17 aces in the match.
” It’s never easy against Reilly (Opelka) but I am happy I was able to pull through and make it to the next round”. He said.
Shapovalov will face the number three seed Alexander Zverev in the round of 16.
Felix Auger-Aliassime Survives Australian Open Marathon
For a second time this week the Canadian was pushed but managed to win a tough four-set match against his Spanish opponent.
Felix Auger-Aliassime booked his spot in the third round of the Australian Open after beating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 in a match that lasted four hours and 20 minutes.
The Montreal native hit 58 winners and served 28 aces while Davidovich Fokina hit 51 unforced errors. It is the second time the 21-year-old has reached the last 32 in Melbourne Park in what is his third appearence.
The first game of the match was a nervy one for the world number nine as it lasted six minutes and it involved him saving two breakpoints before being able to hold serve. The opener stayed on serve until 2-2 when the Fokina came up with an impressive passing shot to set up two more chances for the first break of serve of the match and this time managed to convert. Three games later the Canadian fought back and broke right back to go back on serve.
It was a tiebreak which decided the first set. The Montreal native jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the Spaniard came back again to win the next four points but the Canadian responded again winning three straight points to take the breaker 7-4 and the first set.
The second set was another impressive performance on serve by both players and once again was decided by a back and forth breaker that this time was won by Davidovich Fokina to level the match.
The third frame was much the same as both players kept their level up and not much differentiated the two. This tiebreaker was much more straightforward as the Canadian jumped out to a 5-1 lead before closing out the third set 7-5 and taking two sets to one lead.
The fourth set stayed on serve until 2-1 when the world number 50 had a chance to break and was able to get it for a 3-1 lead before the Canadian was able to break back the following game to go back on serve.
For the fourth time, the set was decided by a tiebreaker and this one was super tight with the Canadian getting the crucial break to take a 4-3 lead and that one break was enough for him to serve it out.
Auger Aliassime will now face Dan Evans in the third round after the Brit was handed a walkover against Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech who pulled out of the match due to injury.
‘Best Feeling I’ve Ever Had’ – Underdog Christopher O’Connell Stuns Schwartzman At Australian Open
Prior to this week the 27-year-old had never won a main draw match at Melbourne Park or beaten a top 20 player.
World No.175 Christopher O’Connell has pulled off a major upset at the Australian Open by knocking out 13th seed Diego Schwartzman.
The 27-year-old wild card had only ever won one match in the main draw of a Grand Slam prior to this year but illustrated the talent that he has with a 7-6, 6-4, 6-4, win over Schwartzman. A player who is currently ranked 162 places above him in the rankings. Against the Argentine he fired a total of 44 winners and won 75% of his first service points on route to claiming his first win over a top 20 player.
“It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had on a tennis court. I’ve been playing tennis since I was four. To have moments like this it’s a dream come true.” O’Connell said during his press conference.
Despite the straightforward score, the match itself was a marathon. The opener alone lasted for almost 90 minutes with the underdog saving three set points whilst down 4-5 before prevailing in the tiebreaker. Then in the following two sets he broke Schwartzman three times in total.
“I knew how crucial that first set was. It was really warming up out there. It was really a battle back and forth. It was crucial to get that first set, especially in the heat,” he said.
A late bloomer on the men’s Tour, the Australian started to make a breakthrough last year by reaching his first quarter-final at the Atlanta Open where he defeated Jannik Sinner. During that year he also reached the final of a French Challenger event before withdrawing due to injury and reached the second round of the US Open.
O’Connell, who has been ranked as high as 111th in the world, credits his coach for helping him reach new milestones in the sport. He is mentored by former player Marinko Matosevic who reached a ranking high of 39th back in 2013 and made more than $2M in prize money during his playing career.
“The process didn’t start yesterday. It’s been happening all of last year,” he stated.
“I’ve been working with Marinko. He’s just really confident with how I want to play tennis now. It’s the first time I’ve really had a one-on-one coach literally every day with me.’
“Marinko was such a great player. All his knowledge of the game, he’s just putting it onto me.”
Next up for O’Connell will be the in-form Maxime Cressy who lost to Rafael Nadal in the final of the Melbourne Summer Set just over a week ago. The American defeated Czech qualifier Tomáš Macháč 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(5), in his second round match.
“I knew I had good results in me. It’s just being consistent. I felt today was a consistent match from me,” he reflected.
“But the biggest thing for me is just staying healthy, not having these injuries where I miss two months of tournaments. I nearly missed five or six months last year. I can’t be doing that.’
“The belief is always there, but I just got to make sure my body’s healthy this year. I want to play a full year.”
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