By Ros Satar
- World No. 3 Andy Murray suffers opening defeat in tight three-setter against Teymuraz Gabashvili 6-4 4-6 7-6(4)
- Murray included Washington ahead of the key Masters events coming up in Montreal and Cincinnati
Andy Murray bowed out of the Citi Open in Washington, losing to Teymuraz Gabashvili in three sets, at the start of his US hard court campaign.
Murray included the ATP 500 event in his schedule, after helping Great Britain reach the Davis Cup, in place of his customary Miami training block, due to the extra week on the grass this season and with the Davis Cup.
Murray had looked relaxed in his build up, and as top seed, had a bye into the second round. He fitted in a visit to the White House with his team, and had based himself in Washington early to get used to the humid conditions, as he took to the hard courts for the first time since the spring hard-court swing.
The Russian struck early to build up a 4-1 lead, although Murray broke back to bring things back on serve in the first set. Gabashvili battled hard to break Murray once more, taking his third set point to set up a lead.
Murray was more in tune in the second set, breaking the World No. 53 once, saving a breakpoint before taking just a single set point to level the match.
With just a trade of breaks at the end of the decider, the tie-break saw neither player flinch until the very end, with Gabashvili getting the crucial mini-break to bring up match-point, breaking Murray’s serve again to book his place in the third round where he will face Ricardas Berankis.
After the match, Murray said: “I was exhausted at the end because my body was really tired. It wasn’t like I was blown off the court in a match that I had no chance of winning.
“It was the first hard-court match for four-and-a-half months with only four or five days of preparation, so I was happy with how I moved and did certain things on court.”
Next up for Murray is the Montreal Masters, where he will be reunited with the world’s elite, with the exception of Roger Federer.
Is there cause for concern?
Seeds have been tumbling this week as players from both tours return after the post-Wimbledon break and not unusually, Murray sought to get as much match play as possible, partnering Daniel Nestor in doubles too. There is no doubt he was utterly spent after his Davis Cup exertions, and admitted he needed time off to rest which would affect his preparations for Washington, but the key will be how he does in Montreal and Cincinnati where he reached the quarter-finals last year in both.
It was a hefty clay court season for Murray, which saw him win his first two titles on the surface before reaching the French Open semi-finals for the second time in his career. He went on to win Queen’s Club and reached the Wimbledon semi-final.
However he is looking at another long stint of play, with back to back Masters 1000s, the US Open and then the Davis Cup semi-final, so fans should expect his autumn schedule to be cut down drastically. Last year, Murray played a packed schedule, winning three titles (Shenzhen, Vienna and Valencia) before running out of steam at the World Tour Finals.
The US Open, and the chance to put Great Britain in the Davis Cup final will no doubt be his focus. Murray is currently second in the race for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, and will need to consider the points he could lose from two ATP 250s and an ATP 500 if he opts not to defend his titles from the end of last year against putting in a good show at the World Tour Finals not to mention bidding for his third Grand Slam title and potential Davis Cup glory. It is a harsh reality but the Davis Cup team’s reliance on him for both his singles rubbers and potentially the doubles will shape the rest of the season.
All eyes then, turn to Montreal and his form as he competes alongside the main contenders for the last Slam of the year, when the Coupe Rogers starts on August 10.