It took Andy Murray nearly four years to reclaim the No 2 spot in the world rankings but it has taken him only three weeks to lose it. Monday’s updated ranking list will see Roger Federer back in second place behind Novak Djokovic after Murray suffered his heaviest defeat for three years when he was beaten 6-1, 6-2 by Stanislas Wawrinka here in the third round of the Monte Carlo Masters.
Murray, having made a catalogue of errors, was booed off the court after losing in just 58 minutes to the world No 17. It was the third time in the last five years that the crowd here have made vocal their disapproval of the Scot. In 2010 the jeers followed a 64-minute defeat by Philipp Kohlschreiber, which was the last time Murray won only three games in a match, and two years ago the crowd booed him for taking advantage of a hobbling Gilles Simon by playing drop shots.
While Murray did not appear concerned by the rankings implication of this defeat – the Scot will retake the No 2 spot if Federer fails to retain his Madrid Masters title next month – he will be frustrated at getting only two matches under his belt on his first appearance of the clay-court season. Having decided to stay here training rather than play in Barcelona next week, he will go to his next tournament in Madrid short of matchplay on what has always been his most challenging surface.
Murray, who won the Miami Masters at his previous tournament, had looked in good shape against Edouard Christophe-Vasselin on Wednesday and initially struck the ball well against Wawrinka. However, after holding serve in the first game and forcing two break points in the second, everything went horribly wrong.
Being more aggressive has paid rich dividends for Murray in the last year, but on clay the balance between attack and defence can be harder to find. In going for his shots Murray kept making mistakes and when he became more cautious he allowed Wawrinka to dominate.
The 28-year-old Swiss, who will meet Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in today’s quarter-finals, made three successive breaks of serve to take the first set and was always in command in the second, in which Murray won just two points against serve. Wawrinka is a fine clay-court player and has now won all three of his meetings with Murray on terre battue.
Murray’s only victory of the day was over Rafael Nadal in the race to the post-match interview room, despite coming off court more than an hour and 20 minutes after the Spaniard had completed his 44th win in a row here, beating Kohlschreiber 6-2, 6-4 to earn a quarter-final against Grigor Dimitrov.
“I made a lot of mistakes, from both sides,” Murray admitted, his shirt still dripping with sweat after coming to his press conference directly from the court. “I just looked at the stats on the way up the stairs. Twenty-four unforced errors is far too many. That’s a set’s worth. That’s where half the points went.
“He served well. He won some points from there. When I started making a lot of errors, I started hitting the ball shorter. Then he was able to dictate all of the points from there. When you do that on clay, when you make a lot of unforced errors, your response is to take your foot off the gas on the shots. If you don’t give any power or spin on the ball, it’s easy to let your opponent dictate the point.”
Murray admitted that he takes time to adjust to clay. “I need matches against top players to see what’s going wrong and what’s going right,” he said. “Normally towards the end of the clay-court season, I start to feel better with my game and I’ve had some good results, but at the start I have struggled a little bit.”
Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin del Potro, world No 6 and No 7 respectively, also went out of the tournament. Berdych lost 6-4, 6-2 to Fabio Fognini, who now plays Richard Gasquet, while the Argentinian Del Potro was beaten 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 by Jarkko Nieminen, who next meets Djokovic. The world No 1 initially struggled with the ankle injury he suffered less than a fortnight ago but recovered from a set down for the second day in succession to beat Juan Monaco 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.Reuse content