Andy Murray suffers chastening defeat by journeyman in Bordeaux Challenger event

Andy Murray – Andy Murray suffers chastening defeat to journeyman in Boudreaux Challenger event
Andy Murray went out to France's Gregoire Barrere in straight sets on Thursday evening - Reuters/Rula Rouhana

Andy Murray is playing with a new racket in Bordeaux this week, but a new body is what he really needs if he wants to compete at the elite level.

Having begun his campaign at this Challenger event with a victory on his 37th birthday, Murray suffered a chastening second-round defeat. He was thumped in straight sets by Gregoire Barrere – a journeyman who has been playing professionally for over a decade without ever reaching an ATP final.

At the moment, Murray is dealing not only with a metal hip, but also with the after-effects of the ankle injury he suffered in Miami seven weeks ago. He opted against surgery on his ruptured ligaments, relying on rest and rehab instead. But his movement against Barrere was so slow that you could almost hear his joints creaking.

Even in that opening-round victory over Kyrian Jacquet on Wednesday, Murray had been slightly flattered by a 7-5, 2-0 win, given that Jacquet was forced to retire with some sort of hip injury of his own.

Barrere is clearly in better shape than either of these two, in the sense that he is not dealing with a major physical handicap, and he took advantage of Murray’s sluggishness as he romped to a 6-4, 6-2 victory in just 87 minutes.

Barrere was particularly predatory when receiving second serve, slamming several returns away for clean winners. The second serve has always been one of Murray’s weaker suits, but on this slow clay court it really sat up and begged.

Murray has unexpectedly replaced his familiar Head racket – which he has been using for over a decade – with a Yonex Ezone 100 on this trip. The idea is to gain some extra pop on his shots. But the eternal truth of tennis is that you can’t hit any kind of shot if you can’t get to the ball in good time.

The giants of the game often stand out from the merely excellent because of their exceptional speed and balance – two things that Murray used to have in spades. How he must miss the fleet-footed movement of his younger self.

There have been moments in the five years since his hip operation when Murray has looked respectably sharp around the court, if never quite as agile as in the days when he possessed two organic hips. Right now, though, he is labouring like a carthorse.

Murray is due to take the step up to an ATP event in Geneva next week, but he will need to make significant improvements if he is to be competitive there. And then he is due in Paris in ten days’ time for the French Open.

These are challenging times for the former members of the so-called “Big Four”. Rafael Nadal was hammered by Hubert Hurkacz last week in Rome, suffering his heaviest clay-court defeat in more than two decades, before Novak Djokovic fell foul of an unusual combination: a metal water bottle on the head and an 67-minute thrashing by Alejandro Tabilo of Chile.

None of these one-time greats can feel especially confident of their prospects at Roland Garros. Which could create an opening for the generation born in the 1990s: Daniil Medvedev perhaps, or Alexander Zverev, or even Stefanos Tsitsipas.