Andy Murray’s visit to Beijing ended in fury as he wasted three match points, smashed his racket and then pushed a TV camera out of his way in his haste to leave the court.
Murray received a code violation for tossing his racket repeatedly on the ground during his 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 loss to Alex De Minaur, the understated Australian who has now become something of a nemesis.
His loss of temper was understandable, because he had held a 5-2 lead in the deciding set, only for De Minaur to mount a determined fightback, saving two match points in the eighth game. Even in the concluding tie-break, Murray brought up a third match point at 6-5, but proceeded to botch the next three points, two of them on his own serve.
In the middle of that sequence, he thrashed his racket towards the court again, but was wise enough to only just touch it on the hard surface rather than smashing it – a neat trick, given the intensity of his swing, that was sharper than his tennis in that moment.
Had he broken the frame, he would have been in danger of losing the match on the point penalty triggered by a second code violation. As it was, he put one final forehand long to lose the match and after shaking hands, he pushed past the camera angrily and smashed his racket as he collected his belongings from the bench.
Had Murray closed out the win, then the 12th-ranked De Minaur would have become his most eminent victim since Stefanos Tsitsipas (then No5 in the world) 15 months ago. But here is one opponent he seems to struggle with.
This was De Minaur’s fifth win from as many attempts against Murray. No-one else has such a strong and spotless record, and the only other players to put together a five-match winning streak over Murray are his fellow members of what used to be known as the Big Four: Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
“We both didn’t bring our best level,” said a bemused-looking De Minaur after the match. “It wasn’t pretty but I’m really happy.”
Murray will now have a few days to regroup. Shanghai – one of the two remaining Masters 1000 events of the season – is due to start on Wednesday.