A crying shame for Murray

New British hero makes his painful exit after marathon battle
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The Independent Online

Andy Murray lost a match but won an enduring reputation on a frenzied Centre Court last night. Though beaten 6-7 1-6 6-0 6-4 6-1 by Argentina's David Nalbandian after looking certain to surge to a straight-sets win in their third-round match, Murray, the 18-year-old from Dunblane who survived that town's school massacre in 1996, has established himself as the new darling of British tennis.

Andy Murray lost a match but won an enduring reputation on a frenzied Centre Court last night. Though beaten 6-7 1-6 6-0 6-4 6-1 by Argentina's David Nalbandian after looking certain to surge to a straight-sets win in their third-round match, Murray, the 18-year-old from Dunblane who survived that town's school massacre in 1996, has established himself as the new darling of British tennis.

How many mobile phone owners will be resetting their ring tone to Scotland The Brave? A packed crowd on the most historic tennis court in the world rose to salute Murray's bravery and skill, but he found it of little consolation, sitting glumly in his chair at the conclusion of a riveting match lasting three hours 12 minutes before limping off.

Murray, appearing in the tournament by courtesy of a wild card, had already replaced Tim Henman in the affections of the fans with the style of his second-round win over the 14th seed, Radek Stepanek. That win elevated him 100 places in the world rankings to 210 and he would have moved close to the top 100 had he been able to see off Nalbandian, the 18th seed and runner-up at Wimbledon in 2002 to Lleyton Hewitt.

Another sensation seemed on the cards as Murray's strategy of playing clay-court tennis on grass carried him through the first two sets, leaving Nalbandian confused and dejected. Then Murray began to suffer a recurrence of the hip problem and cramp which affected him at the Stella Artois tournament at Queen's. When Nalbandian took a toilet break at the end of the second set, Murray stretched on the grass, flexing his right leg. Even though he was suffering, all it needed was one galvanic effort late in the fourth set when he held, but missed, three break points which would have given him a 5-4 lead and left him serving for the match.

When that moment passed, so did British dreams. The trainer was called, Murray was treated, Nalbandian was as good as safe. Being a solid pro, the Argentinian ensured the execution would be swift, if as painless as possible. John Lloyd, the former British Davis Cup player and coach, said that Murray's performance "takes care of the next 10 years" as far as a British replacement for Henman is concerned, while the No 2 seed, Andy Roddick, said: "The thing that impresses me most about Murray is that he's not going for too much. He's saying 'Here's the meat and potatoes of my game, you try and find a way to beat me'. It's a pretty mature outlook for someone so young." As Murray acknowledged: "It is about doing it for 30 weeks a year , not one week. I am not physically there yet but my tennis is."

The offers of sponsorship are certain to pour in for the youngster who took himself off to Spain to learn to play the game on clay, and in the last two days he has been offered wild cards into the ATP tournaments which follow Wimbledon, in Gstaad on clay and Newport, Rhode Island, on grass. He intends to accept Newport.

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