Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal fall victim to transition problems after quick turnaround for grass

Scot goes down 7-6, 6-2 to Radek Stepanek at the Aegon Championships, while world No 1 loses 6-4, 6-1 to Dustin Brown in Halle

queen's club

Roll on 2015. On a day when Andy Murray was beaten 7-6, 6-2 by Radek Stepanek here at the Aegon Championships and Rafael Nadal lost 6-4, 6-1 to Dustin Brown at the Halle tournament in Germany, the wisdom behind next year's move to a three-week gap between the French Open and Wimbledon could not have been more clearly underlined.

Twenty-four hours after claiming his first grass-court victory of the season, Murray saw his 19-match winning run on the surface ended by a wily opponent with a game well suited to the conditions. The result might have been very different if the Scot had converted one of the eight set points he had in the first set, but by the end it was an emphatic defeat.

For any players who go deep into the tournament at Roland Garros, where the final takes place just 15 days before the first balls are struck at the All England Club, the transition from clay to grass is one of the toughest challenges in tennis. When Murray won the title here 12 months ago and went on to end Britain's 77-year wait for a men's singles champion at Wimbledon, the fact that he had not played in Paris because of a back injury – and had instead spent more time getting accustomed to grass – was a significant factor.

This year Murray was playing in the semi-finals at the French Open only last Friday. He barely had time to dig out his grass-court shoes before he was on the practice court here, trying to adjust to the low bounces and the need to move more carefully around the court.

"A lot of people try to say that the surfaces are all very similar now, but from a player's perspective there is a huge difference between playing clay-court and grass-court tennis," Murray said. "The movement is totally different. In Rafa's case, two days of practice on grass after playing for six or seven weeks on one surface is not enough time to prepare properly for a tournament.

"I think the extra week [from next year] will help all of the players. They can prepare a bit better. The guys that lose early at the French can get more matches in and the guys that do well at the French can take a little break before getting back into it and getting their body used to the surface.

"I need to spend some time on this surface to get used to it. All of my best results on the grass came when I had a decent amount of preparation time. When I played my best tennis at the Olympics, that was seven or eight weeks I spent on the grass courts. I played my best tennis after that."

Stepanek, a 35-year-old Czech who was once No 8 in the world, was just the man to exploit Murray's rustiness. The world No 42 served well, volleyed confidently and denied Murray time by making frequent forays to the net. Nine years after the Scot, then the world No 312, announced his arrival on the world stage by beating Stepanek, then the world No 13, in the second round at Wimbledon, the Czech got his grass-court revenge.

Although Murray regularly struggled on his serve, he should still have won the tie-break, in which he led 6-2. Four of the eight set points were on his serve, but Stepanek hung on and took his chance to win the tie-break 12-10. The Czech broke in the opening game of the second set and Murray must have known it was not to be his day when a Stepanek return on break point at 2-4 hit the top of the net and dropped limply on the Scot's side.

Murray plans to take the next two days off before resuming training on Sunday, when he will return here for the "Rally for Bally" matches in memory of Elena Baltacha. He will spend next week on the practice court with his new coach, Amélie Mauresmo, before Wimbledon starts on Monday week. He will also play an exhibition match against Spain's Tommy Robredo at Hurlingham next Thursday.

Asked how he would spend the next two days, Murray said he would use the time relaxing with friends, going out to dinner and enjoying the World Cup. Might he find mowing his lawn a way to unwind? "Actually, I have never done that in my life," Murray smiled. "I wouldn't want to mess it up. The lawn wouldn't look great if I tried it."

News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Bruce, left, with Cream bandmates Ginger Rogers, centre, and Eric Clapton in 1967
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker