Sluggish Murray falls to world No 77

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Andy Murray has always looked up to Tim Henman and tried to follow his example, but this was going too far. Henman reserved some of his worst defeats for the Olympic tennis tournament, winning only one match in three appearances at the Games, and Murray followed in his footsteps yesterday by losing 7-6, 6-4 to Chinese Taipei's Lu Yen-Hsun, the world No 77.

The 20-year-old Scot looked completely out of sorts, though he did well to return later in the evening to partner his brother, Jamie, to a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Canada's Daniel Nestor and Frederic Niemeyer. The one bright spot in Henman's Olympic career was the doubles silver medal he won in Atlanta alongside Neil Broad.

It was a fine victory - Nestor is the world's No 1 doubles player - but it will hardly ease the pain of Murray's worst defeat since he lost to Robin Haase in Rotterdam six months ago. He had come here as one of the favourites after enjoying the best run of his career, having followed his first appearance in a Grand Slam quarter-final at Wimbledon with his first Masters series title in Cincinnati.

His recent exertions seemed to have taken their toll. Murray won in Cincinnati only nine days ago and arrived here on Thursday after a tortuous journey via London and Helsinki. He looked jaded and stale, while his sluggish movement suggested that his long-term knee problem may be troubling him here.

There was certainly no case for blaming the conditions. The torrential rain of the previous day had brought a freshness to the air and with thick cloud cover overhead the temperature was perfectly comfortable.

Lu admitted afterwards that all he had expected to gain from playing here was some experience. The 24-year-old has been playing Challenger events for much of the year and in his 14 appearances at Grand Slam tournaments has won only three matches, all in the first round.

It was a ragbag of a match - Murray made 62 unforced errors and Lu 67 - in which both players struggled to hold serve. Murray in particular was regularly caught out by the power of Lu's returns, especially on his second serve.

At the start there were barely 300 spectators watching, but Murray hardly lacked support. In the stands were four members of his coaching team - Miles Maclagan, Louis Cayer, Matt Little and Andy Ireland - as well as his brother and mother, Colin Moynihan, the chairman of the British Olympic Association, and Stuart Smith, president of the Lawn Tennis Association.

Murray served for the first set at 5-3 only to drop his serve for the second time in a row. The Scot scorned three set points when Lu served at 5-6 and never got back into contention in the tie-break after starting off with a double fault. Having saved three set points Murray lost the fourth with another double fault after Lu successfully challenged the "in" verdict on the Scot's second serve.

Lu broke to lead 2-0 in the second set before a five-minute rain break gave Murray the chance to regroup. He broke back immediately, but at 4-4 wasted four break points. In the next game Lu took his first match point when Murray put a forehand in the net after yet another crunching return of serve.

In the doubles, which finished after midnight, Andy again looked badly out of touch and smashed his racket on the floor in frustration after dropping his serve to love at 4-5 in the first set, finishing with a double fault. Jamie, however, kept the brothers in contention with his positive play and although Andy dropped his serve again at the start of the second set Niemeyer was broken twice in a row.

An early break of the Nestor serve put the Murrays ahead in the final set. They scorned a chance when serving for the match at 5-4, but when Niemeyer served in the next game the brothers converted their third match point as Nestor missed an easy volley.

The top three men's seeds, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic all progressed. The biggest cheers of the day were reserved for China's Li Na, who beat Svetlana Kuznetsova, the No 3 seed, 7-6, 6-4. Jelena Jankovic, the top seed following Ana Ivanovic's withdrawal with a thumb injury, beat Cara Black 6-3, 6-3.