By Ros Satar

  • Murray looks set to settle back in the World Top 250 after being as low as outside the Top 500
  • Three thoughts on the three weeks he spent in China
  • What’s next for the former World No. 1
SHANGHAI, CHINA – Andy Murray bowed out of the Shanghai Masters after a spicy encounter with Fabio Fognini as we look back on three weeks in China.

 

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Zhuhai – First tour-level victory since Brisbane 2019

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As Andy Murray made his comeback, fans and pundits saw him put up sturdy fights against players but the lack of match sharpness showed from the outset and none more so than in his match against divisive journeyman Tennys Sandgren. The American pushed him hard, edging Murray in two tight sets. Revenge was sweet in the first round of Zhuhai with Murray showing how much he was improving, Sandgren still had a few tricks up his sleeve, forcing a decider, before Murray ran away with the decider.

The second round saw him up against Alex De Minaur who showed up the lack of match fitness despite going a set down. De Minaur’s ability to do to Murray what he has done to many beforehand proved to be telling.

Movement was good, but fatigue looked to be a factor, and none of Murray’s matches at a tour level have been simple!

 

Beijing – First quarter-final since reaching the same stage in Shenzhen one year ago

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Using his protected ranking, he drew the NO. 8 seed Matteo Berrettini, who had raced up the rankings in the past year. It proved to be another tight match, with Murray edging two tie-breaks but his time on court was still long.

Up against the British No 3 Cameron Norrie, who had been improving all the time since the US Open, it was another battle. In the second set, Murray often looked winded and fatigued as Norrie did his best to make it as physical as possible, before tailing away badly in the decider.

Against top seed and eventual champion Dominic Thiem, he met a brick wall with someone whose defensive capabilities are at least as good as his own.

Beijing seemed to be a step up again, and saw Murray take an enormous leap back up the rankings from outside the Top 500 to inside the Top 300.

Match sharpness is coming, but the levels of fatigue he displayed in the match against Norrie saw him drastically change his strategy to work on shortening the points. It is not his natural go-to, but it did prove effective as he shut down Norrie’s momentum.

 

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Shanghai Masters – Downed in feisty form by Fognini

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The points alone from a couple of rounds of a Masters 1000 would see Murray advance to just inside the World Top 250 and up to British No. 5 with the start of the indoor European tournament to take us to the close of the year.

He was up against it against qualifier Juan Ignacio Londero. He admitted he felt the courts were the fastest he had played on and it took him time to adjust, but the experience took over as he went the distance once more.

All the drama though came against the No. 10 seed Fabio Fognini. The first set had a few switches and changes in momentum before Fognini eased to a one set lead in the first set tie-break. The second set saw Fognini tail away as Murray picked up a double-break cushion to level the match.

The decider saw Murray break and be a game away from a spot in the third round, only to be pegged back straight away, only to return the favour a couple of games later when Fognini went ahead.

Tensions were running high with someone in the crowd needling Fognini, the Italian calling out while the ball was in play as potential hindrance to Murray and resulted in a terse exchange between Murray and Fognini and an equally terse exchange involving umpire Fergus Murphy.

 

 

Although Fognini ended up producing some of his best tennis of the match to command the tie-break, there was a lot to take away from the match. Again Murray had been able to go toe-to-toe, and it is clear his passion to win has not been abated with his injury issues. That did not stop him feeling disappointed with a loss here, where again match sharpness may have made the difference in the tie-breaks.

 

 

Next up for Murray is Antwerp, followed by playing in the revamped Davis Cup Finals in Madrid.


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