Andy Murray has been accused of over-training by John McEnroe following the Briton's unexpected elimination from the US Open at the hands of the Croatian Marin Cilic.
The 22-year-old world No 2 had been tipped by many experts, including McEnroe and Andre Agassi, to improve on last year's progression to a first Grand Slam final at Flushing Meadows and end Roger Federer's five-year dominance of the last major of the season.
Yet Murray fell short in New York, comprehensively beaten in straight sets by 20-year-old Cilic, the 16th seed. He lost 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 at Arthur Ashe Stadium, the form that had taken him to five ATP Tour titles in 2009, four of them on hard courts, deserting the Scot at the worst possible time.
Murray's lack of energy was a worry for McEnroe. "He has worked extremely hard on his game," the American said, "but my concern is that he is over-tennised and over-trained at this point. He has his own routine and needs to be in great shape – no doubt about that. Roger Federer has it worked in terms of what he does on his days off and Murray would be better slacking off because he has done all the work that's needed at this point. You don't need to work that hard between matches."
"I'm disappointed," Murray said. "I don't know how long or how quickly it will take me to get over it but I played well in the summer. I had a good grass court season. This hasn't been a bad hard-court season. So I'm going to be disappointed, but I'll have to go and work on some things.
"I'll go sit down with the guys that I work with and see what went well this whole year and what didn't go so well, and work as hard as I can on it to be ready to win a slam in Australia [in January]. I think that next year I've got a very, very good chance of doing it. I think I'll be a better player next year than this year, and hopefully I'll do that."
Having had so much success so far in 2009, winning titles in Doha, Rotterdam, Miami, Queen's Club and Montreal, Murray refused to let his surprise defeat to Cilic cloud his overall verdict on the campaign to date. "It's been a very good season. I don't think I could say it's been anything less than that," he said.