Andy Murray’s 2024 goes from bad to worse with sixth defeat in a row

Andy Murray’s 2024 goes from bad to worse with sixth defeat in a row
Andy Murray is out of form and low on confidence - Getty Images /Will Murray

Andy Murray’s horror run continued with yet another defeat – his sixth in a row – as he succumbed to the unheralded Tomas Machac in Marseille. This is now comfortably the worst sequence of Murray’s career.

Murray’s form slump has triggered much speculation about how much longer he plans to eke out his tennis dotage. Yet there is no apparent prospect of retirement.

When a BBC column recently questioned whether he might be damaging his legacy, Murray replied with an angry social-media post, writing: “Do me a favour. I’m in a terrible moment right now I’ll give you that. Most people would quit and give up in my situation right now. But I’m not most people and my mind works differently. I won’t quit. I will keep fighting and working to produce the performances I know I’m capable of.”

Motivation is not an issue for Murray, as that furious post confirms. He continues to search far and wide for solutions. In Marseille, his player box featured not only his travelling assistant coach Jonny O’Mara but also the noted technical guru Louis Cayer.

Yet one often wonders whether Murray’s issues might have less to do with his mechanics than his mind. Take, for instance, the double fault he committed at 5-5, 30-30 in the first set. Admittedly, this part of his game has been patchy of late, with less than half of his first serves finding their target against Machac. Primarily, though, this crucial unforced error felt like it stemmed from dwindling self-belief. He would not be the first ageing athlete to lose his mental edge.

Inevitably, the double fault soon begat a break of serve. And from there, Murray was always swimming against the current. There are moments where he evokes warm memories, conjuring a deft drop shot or a stinging return. But he cannot string enough of these silky touches together to mount a serious challenge.

On paper, Machac wasn’t the worst of draws, as his world ranking of No 66 places him somewhere around the middle of the Marseille field. He is somewhat undervalued, though: a late developer with serious firepower who has been held back by his hare-brained shot selection. Even here, there were some notably bad decisions, but he usually managed to bang down a big serve or a screaming forehand as a Get-Out-Of-Jail card.

Murray was already on a career-worst run after his loss to Benoit Paire, the French maverick, in Montpellier eight days previously, and this latest defeat is hardly going to improve his mood. At least he didn’t have any rankings points to defend in Marseille, but in a couple of weeks he goes to Doha, where last season he pulled off a series of unlikely, back-from-the-brink victories to reach the final.

If we were feeling optimistic, we might be tempted to suggest that Doha will trigger positive memories. Yet there is another side to this coin. Murray’s anxiety levels may climb even higher when he knows that a first-round loss will send him tumbling some 20 places down the rankings ladder. At present, he is hanging on inside the top 50 by his fingernails.

In other tennis news, Boris Becker announced that his short-lived coaching stint with Danish star Holger Rune has come to an end. “I realised that in order for this to be successful, I would need to be available for Holger much more than I can,” said Becker, who is subject to various travel bans after his conviction for bankruptcy fraud, and was not present in Melbourne for the recent Australian Open. “Due to professional and private responsibilities,” he added, “I can’t give Holger what he needs now.”

And Heather Watson scored her best win in seven years as she overcame world No 16 Veronika Kudermetova in straight sets in Abu Dhabi. Having started the event as the world No 156, Watson came through two rounds of qualifying and is now into the last 16 of the main draw, where she will play Cristina Bucsa of Spain.