Andy Murray casts doubt on future after crashing out of Australian Open to qualifier

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Andy Murray casts doubt on future after crashing out of Australian Open to qualifier - GETTY IMAGES
Andy Murray casts doubt on future after crashing out of Australian Open to qualifier - GETTY IMAGES

Andy Murray has cast doubt on his competitive future after a straight-sets second-round defeat at the Australian Open by Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel, the worst result by ranking of his grand slam career. A picture of dejection as he reflected on a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 loss to the world No 120, he said: “A performance like that is not something I find motivating at this stage.”

At 34, Murray, a five-time finalist here at Melbourne Park, refused to give any guarantees he would be back next year for his 14th attempt at this event. A first defeat at this level to a player ranked outside the top 100 was not, he acknowledged, an experience he had any desire to repeat.

Asked if he was certain to return in 12 months’ time, Murray replied: “Not if I do what I did tonight too often this season. Tonight is not good enough. Making the second round of slams is not something I find particularly motivating. I want to be doing better than that.”

It is not the first occasion during Murray’s comeback from major hip surgery that he has offered a gloomy prognosis about his appetite to continue as an also-ran. “Is it worth it?” he asked, rhetorically, after being beaten heavily by Denis Shapovalov at Wimbledon last summer. But where he could rationalise that result on the basis of the Canadian’s high seeding, he struggled to accept being outclassed by Daniel, a player who had never reached the third round of a slam before.

“I’m really, really disappointed,” he said. “Very frustrated. It’s a tough loss for me, that’s for sure. I haven’t lost to someone outside 100 before in a slam.” Lamenting the fact that he still needed to rely on wildcards for majors, thus risking early-round encounters with seeded opponents, Murray admitted he was desperate to improve his own ranking of 113th.

Taro Daniel has reached the third round of a grand slam for the first time - GETTY IMAGES
Taro Daniel has reached the third round of a grand slam for the first time - GETTY IMAGES

“I’m not seeded just now – I’m far away from that, which makes things difficult. I’ve played [Nikoloz] Basilashvili a couple of times and Stefanos [Tsitsipas] at the US Open, and that makes things challenging. Moving up the rankings gives you the opportunity to build your way into a tournament, so that you don’t have to come out and start playing really well straight away.”

His travails against Daniel negated the progress he had shown 48 hours earlier by vanquishing Basilashvili for the third time in six months. Murray’s return to this point has not been without sacrifice, with his hip resurfacing coinciding with the responsibilities of bringing up four children.

He was emotional after this month’s Sydney final when making reference to his family, and described here how the extended periods away were taking a psychological toll.

“I would rather not be away from my family for five, six weeks at a time, but I still love to compete and play tennis,” said Murray, who has made no concrete plans beyond next month’s hard-court tournaments in Doha and Dubai.

“There is a balance that you need to have. My family has been a bit sick the last week. When that’s the case, you also want to be there to help and feel like you’re contributing. It’s harder leaving home when you’ve got four children than it was when I was in my mid-20s.”

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