Murray falls victim to tiredness and temperament

On Wednesday night, Andy Murray lost his chance to complete the full set of grand-slam finals in 2016.

Published: 09th September 2016 08:22 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th September 2016 08:22 AM   |  A+A-

US Open Tennis_Mukh

On Wednesday night, Andy Murray lost his chance to complete the full set of grand-slam finals in 2016.

Instead, he added to his collection of zany meltdowns - this one prompted by a loud clang from the stadium's PA system that reprieved Kei Nishikori during a crucial break-point rally.

Murray can resemble Professor Branestawm in his ability to puzzle out solutions when matches are going against him. He also shares a similar capacity for going haywire when outside elements interfere with his delicate programming.

This latest psychodrama fits into a well-established pattern. It follows on from the seagull feather that floated down from the rafters above Rod Laver Arena during his 2013 Australian Open final against Novak Djokovic, triggering a pivotal double fault.

And then there was the fuss surrounding the 2015 semi-final in Melbourne because of Dani Vallverdu's defection from Murray's camp to coaching his opponent Tomas Berdych. Rarely has a tennis match felt so much like a screening of Kramer vs. Kramer.

Wednesday's instalment was a classic of the genre, however. On top of the PA system's random blurtings, Murray was incensed by the presence of a butterfly on the court (he swished at it with his racket, causing a potentially fatal injury), as well as the closing of the roof, the blinding floodlights, the volume of the crowd noise and the unruly spectators who kept hopping up and down in the middle of rallies.

Why does he react so strongly to such details? Wouldn't he do better to remain outwardly impassive, as Nishikori did throughout their five-set quarter-final, and direct all his energy up the court?

Yes, he probably would. But that is not who Murray is. And Nishikori, for all his fleet-footed gifts, has yet to claim a grand-slam title, win an Olympic gold medal or Davis Cup title, or compete regularly with the greatest players in the game.

Murray is hardly alone in the way he draws inspiration from dark places. Think John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. "That's how he is," wrote former Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka on her Twitter page, in response to a comment about Murray's ever-present rage. "And he managed to get a lot accomplished already."

The majority of players hate to lose. And Murray hates it with a peculiar passion. The bitterest dregs of his defiance lie behind these outbursts - moments when he acts as if the world is against him.

In a way, the world is against him. No one else has had to play his first 10 grand-slam finals against the No?1-ranked player (either Roger Federer or Djokovic), nor to put up with the flak that he received for losing his first four attempts. So if we celebrate Murray's achievements, should we not accept at least some of his foibles?

The manner of Wednesday's defeat has at least disproved the theory that Lendl is an all-purpose panacea for Murray's stroppiness. In general, Lendl's presence improves matters. But weariness has the opposite effect - and Murray arrived in New York feeling jaded after his long summer.

The Olympics made this a particularly difficult year, but Lendl and the rest of Murray's camp need to consider why the US Open has become comfortably his worst grand slam since he won his maiden major title here in 2012. In four years, he has not even been back to the semi-finals.

After flying back to Heathrow yesterday, Murray will have less than a week's break before the Davis Cup semi-final against Argentina in Glasgow. His likely opponent on the first day, Juan Martin del Potro, also lost in the quarter-finals here, going down to Stan Wawrinka.

This next Davis Cup weekend will be another mighty contest in a year of draining showdowns for Murray. At some stage, he was always going to blow his top.

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