Murray's progress blocked by Djokovic

It was a moment that summed up Andy Murray's afternoon at the Monte Carlo Masters here yesterday. Novak Djokovic, having won the first set 6-0, was serving at 4-4 and 30-0 when he struck a forehand winner that was called in. Murray could see that the imprint left by the ball proved that it was out, but, just as the umpire started to climb down from his chair to confirm the Scot's verdict, a ballgirl ran over the mark, obliterating the evidence. The "in" call stood, Djokovic won the next five points and Murray was on his way home.

After the promise of Murray's victories here over Feliciano Lopez and Filippo Volandri – his first back-to-back tournament wins on clay on the senior tour – it was an anticlimactic end to the 20-year-old Scot's week. Djokovic, the world No 3 and the most successful player this year, was always the favourite to progress to the quarter-finals, but Murray eased his passage with an error-strewn display.

This was Murray's fourth defeat in four matches against the Serb, who is one week his junior. Having raced neck-and-neck with Djokovic during their junior careers and their first two years on the senior tour, Murray has been left trailing by his friend and rival over the last 13 months. While the Serb has joined Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in a triumvirate at the top of the game, Murray, his progress having been hampered last year by injuries, has slipped to No 20 in the world, although he looks certain to climb back towards the top 10 as he has so few ranking points to defend over the summer.

Striking the ball with the consistency that has become his hallmark, Djokovic found an excellent length from the start, driving his opponent back behind the baseline. Murray, in contrast, hit too many half-court balls, made too many mistakes and struck too few winners, 12 compared with Djokovic's 24. Only 42 per cent of Murray's first serves found their target and he hit five double-faults, including two on the last two points of the match.

Once Djokovic had broken serve in a second game that lasted more than 15 minutes and featured eight deuces – Murray failed to convert six game points – the first set careered out of his control. The British No 1 earned ironic cheers when he finally got on the scoreboard to level the second set at 1-1, but after breaking serve in the next game he then dropped his own serve with a series of poor shots. It was no surprise when Djokovic broke again at 5-4 to complete victory in an hour and 18 minutes.

"Normally my groundstrokes are very consistent, but I probably only hit about three or four winners and made about 25 or 30 unforced errors," Murray said afterwards. "That's not good enough against a player like Novak.

"He hits the ball very well, serves well, returns well, moves well. He does everything very well. That's why he's a tough player to beat. He's solid off both wings and moves so well."

Djokovic said he was pleased with his own combination of patience and aggression. Of Murray, he said: "I had a feeling that he was a bit too passive throughout the match. He wasn't taking his chances."

Murray has entered the clay-court tournament in Barcelona next week but, with a busy summer ahead, hinted that he may withdraw. His next appearance would then be at the Rome Masters, which starts in 10 days' time, followed by another Masters tournament in Hamburg and then the French Open.

Today's quarter-final line-up here features six of the world's top seven players. Federer, who beat Gaël Monfils in impressive fashion, meets David Nalbandian; Nadal faces David Ferrer; Djokovic plays Sam Querrey; and Nikolai Davydenko takes on his fellow Russian, Igor Andreev.

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.

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor