One minute, Andy Murray was surging, and Wimbledon glory was once again at his fingertips.
The next minute, he imploded, and it didn’t matter that he was only six points from defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas.
He was too angry to see straight. The eruption came at the worst possible time.
Tsitsipas defeated Murray 7-6(3), 6-7(2), 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-4 in the Wimbledon second round yesterday in a match that spanned two days. The first three sets were episode one. The last two sets were played yesterday, and crunch time came at 4-4 in the fourth set.
Murray had just held serve at 3-4, winning four of five points while hitting three winners. It was an extremely positive game for the Brit; his body language and demeanor were energetic, positive, and determined. He carried the positive energy to the next game and hit a forehand return winner at 15-15 to surge to a 15-30 lead.
The match could be won – or lost – right now.
The crowd went ape droppings in response to the return winner. Murray responded with a stream of fist-pumps as he quickly walked to his towel. He could smell it. He was again standing in the shadow of the finish line on Centre Court.
And then it all came spectacularly undone. Murray self-destructed.
With Tsitsipas serving in a hole at 15-30, the Greek made a 1st serve to Murray’s backhand, and he returned a sharp-angled shot cross-court that was called out. No problem. Murray had two challenges remaining; this was the ideal time to use one. Watching the replay, Tsitsipas was running right in front of the line umpire, and a mistake could have easily occurred.
The gravity of the moment and the sharp angle of the shot demanded Murray to challenge.
He didn’t know it was in until he was told in his post-match interview. I was told by a journalist that was there that it looked like he was punched when he heard it. Heartbreaking.
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When asked why he didn’t challenge, he responded, “Well, I mean, it’s right under the umpire’s nose. They shouldn’t be missing. They shouldn’t be missing that to be honest. I assumed the umpire would have made the right call. So yeah, you can obviously argue it’s a mistake on my part.”
There is no argument. It was a clear mistake on Murray’s part.
Through the first five days of the tournament, 26.1% of challenges were successful. Human error exists everywhere, even on Centre Court.
Murray lost self-control with the people who wanted him to succeed the most – his team (and wife) in the coaches’ box. He waved his arms, motioning them to help him decide whether to challenge. The challenge was a no-brainer – no need to involve them at all.
Instead, Murray yelled at them and waved his racquet goodbye as he angrily turned his back and walked away. He was aced down the T on the next point and was instantly furious. He raised his racket high above his head and started the forward motion to crush it into the ground. He stopped short and roared angrily at his box. “Fucking twat” could easily be read from his lips.
The match ended there.
He was six points from the finish line, but it was now impossible to reach because he lost his head.
He won the next point to bring the point score to Deuce but lost the game two points later, trying to hit an approach shot off a drop shot. He netted it and slammed his racquet into the net in disgust. He sat down at the change of ends, stared at his team, and shook his head disapprovingly. He was unfairly taking it all out on them.
Murray lost the tie-break 7-3 as he slouched around the court after losing points. Tsitsipas, on the other hand, was a bundle of positive energy. They could not be more polar opposites with their body language. Murray had gone passive in the points, and Tsitsipas was charging.
Murray lost his serve at 1-1 in the fifth set by playing passively. He rolled a forehand into the net from too deep behind the baseline to be broken. Tsitsipas raised a fist in jubilation, and Murray verbally abused himself and his box. Negativity was oozing out of his pores.
I watched the match with thousands of spectators from “Murray Mound.” Andy’s moaning and complaining sucked the energy out of the crowd. It was hard to root for anyone when they are consumed with anger.
Here’s the tricky part. Everyone loves Andy Murray. His dry sense of humor is so likable. He has received a knighthood, for goodness sake. We correctly refer to him as “Sir Andy,” and nobody has a problem with that. Andy is a good guy and an icon of our sport for the past few decades. He has an army of followers. I go out of my way to watch him compete.
Andy needs to chill out.
After losing a point, he must enjoy this last chapter of his career and stop whining and moaning to his box. Stop pushing the ball and running side to side instead of parking himself on top of the baseline and net.
This problem is not new for Andy, and it’s not the first time I have addressed his negativity and lack of offensive production.
Andy Murray deserves a magnificent send-off to his fantastic career. If he had won six more points against Tsitsipas at 4-4 15-30 in the fourth set, he would have played Laslo Djere in the third round. Djere has a solid backhand. Andy’s is better. A win there, and he gets either Christoper Eubanks or Christopher O’Connell. That’s a dream draw to push him into the quarter-finals. Who knows how far Andy would have gone with the entire British Empire rooting him on?
Murray has a history of incessantly berating his box. Once he goes “dark,” figuring things out strategically on the court becomes incredibly tough. Negativity is all-consuming.
Here’s hoping that at the 11th hour of Murray’s stellar career, he can take a deep breath and conquer his emotional demons. We don’t want to watch Angry Andy. We want to celebrate the Magnificent Murray – a 36-year-old warrior with a metal hip.
Everyone is on Team Andy Murray on his final lap.
Go, Andy, go!