After Saturday night fever, Monday blues. Forty-eight hours after leading Andy Roddick a merry dance on Centre Court, Andy Murray returned yesterday to deliver a dirge of a performance that denied him a place in the Wimbledon quarter-finals.
The 19-year-old Scot, beaten 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 by Marcos Baghdatis in less than two hours, was as lifeless as he had been full of zest during his victory over the world's second best grass-court player.
"I played 10 times worse than on Saturday," Murray said. "I just didn't feel good the whole match. I hardly got myself into any rallies, which is normally what I do best. When you're making so many mistakes and missing so many returns it's difficult to win the match."
It was a desperately disappointing defeat for the last Briton left in either of the singles competitions, especially after the manner of his victory over Roddick. Just as England were going out of the World Cup on Saturday evening, Murray had lifted home spirits with a glorious display of intuitive tennis to beat the No 3 seed and Wimbledon runner-up of the last two years.
On the face of it Baghdatis, the No 18 seed and a player with little grass-court experience, should have provided less of a challenge than Roddick, though Murray, quite correctly, saw himself as the underdog. The Cypriot, two years older and physically stronger, has already played in one grand slam final, having lost to Roger Federer at the Australian Open earlier this year after a run that included victories over three top 10 players. Murray, ranked No 44 and less than two months past his 19th birthday, is still finding his way in the senior game, having left the juniors only 15 months ago.
The Scot said he had felt good going on to the court, but from the very start it was clear that the spark was missing. Some of his difficulties seemed to be physical. A back problem - blamed on growing pains - scuppered his chances in the French Open last month and for much of the first set here he again seemed to be in trouble.
The Scot insisted the problem had not been a factor but acknowledged that his back had felt uncomfortable. "It was a little bit stiff at the start," he said. "It started to ease off after the first set. It wasn't really affecting my movement on my serve."
Nevertheless, Murray served poorly, putting only 52 per cent of his first serves in court, while Baghdatis regularly punished his second serve, on which the Scot won only 48 per cent of the points. His return of serve - so often one of his great strengths - was even worse as the ball regularly flew off the frame of his racket or out of the court.
Even the drop shots from which Murray usually reaps a huge dividend were played without conviction as Baghdatis kept chasing them down.
Perhaps sensing that Murray's movement was not all it should have been, the Cypriot increasingly beat the Scot at his own game. Frustrated by his own shortcomings, Murray also vented his anger on the umpire after some disputed line calls.
Murray had already saved a break point in his first service game before Baghdatis made the decisive break of the first set in the fifth game. Murray broke immediately at the start of the second set but from 4-1 down Baghdatis won five games in a row to go two sets up.
The Scot got to within two points of winning the third set but then played a poor tie-break. Two double faults helped Baghdatis to a 4-1 lead and the Cypriot converted his first match point in a manner that typified the match, easily reading Murray's mediocre drop shot.
"Andy didn't play well, but I had to play really well to win," Baghdatis said. "My objective was not to let him play because he likes playing with the ball and moving you around. I didn't want to do that. I was playing really aggressively and it paid off today."
If Murray's earlier victories over Nicolas Massu, Julien Benneteau and Roddick had been achieved without the benefit of a coach's guidance following his parting from Mark Petchey at Easter, this was a reminder that even a player of Murray's tactical and technical ability, and particularly one so young, needs support.
Murray said this was the third match this year in which he had delivered a limp performance for which he had no explanation. The others were against Juan Ignacio Chela in the Australian Open and against Janko Tipsarevic at Queen's Club last month.
"I'm not sure exactly why it happens," Murray said. "I think when I find myself a coach I'll be able to speak about how I'm feeling. I need someone who's got experience of working with players who have felt like that, someone who can pump you up, motivate you, try and get you in the right frame of mind.
"I felt great in my matches before this one. I didn't feel bad going into it. I thought I had a good chance of winning. To go out and time the ball like I did today wasn't good.
"Everybody knows what I do best: I get myself into a lot of return games, I don't make mistakes on second or third shots, I get myself into a lot of rallies. I normally make 95 per cent of second serve returns but today I was mis-hitting and hitting them three metres wide of the tramline.
"It's just not like me. I was making mistakes, basic errors in the middle of the court, missing ground strokes that I don't normally miss."
Murray, who will play in the grass-court tournament in Newport Rhode Island next week, said he hoped to appoint a new coach within the next six weeks. Murray's team and the Lawn Tennis Association are in talks with Brad Gilbert about a deal that would see the former coach of Andre Agassi and Roddick work with the Scot and other British players.
The three parties are understood to be close to agreement, which would be excellent news for Murray. He is a player of wonderful promise and deserves all the support the LTA can give him.
Yesterday at Wimbledon
* Andy Murray's run came to an end when he lost in straight sets to the Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis (right), 6-3, 6-4, 7-6.
* There will be no US quarter-finalist for the first time since 1911 after Shenay Perry's 6-2, 6-0 defeat to the Russian Elena Dementieva.
* Li Na became the first Chinese Grand Slam singles quarter-finalist following her 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory against the Czech Nicole Vaidisova.
* Reigning men's champion Roger Federer was detained only briefly on Centre Court when he beat the Czech Tomas Berdych, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.Reuse content