Murray's sorry slump continues

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The Independent Online

Andy Murray's shocking run of form shows no signs of ending. The 23-year-old Scot, who has not won since the semi-finals of the Australian Open two months ago, was beaten 6-1, 7-5 in his first match at the Miami Masters last night by Alex Bogomolov Jnr, the world No 118.

Murray's dip is even worse than his run at the same stage last year, when it took him until Wimbledon to recover from his post-Australia slump. He has now lost four matches and nine sets in succession and defeat to 27-year-old Bogomolov was his second in a row against an opponent ranked outside the world's top 100 following his loss to Donald Young in Indian Wells a fortnight ago. The last time Murray suffered consecutive defeats against such lowly-ranked opponents was seven years ago, before he had made his debut on the main ATP tour.

Moscow-born Bogomolov, who has never been ranked higher than No 97 in the world, has not qualified to play in a Grand Slam tournament for five years and has total career earnings of just $756,023 (£469,000) compared with Murray's $15,113,981 (£9.38m). The American, who had to qualify to play in Miami, must have found it hard to believe his luck to come up against a top player in such wretched form.

The match lasted just 95 minutes. Having won only three points on Bogomolov's serve in the first set, Murray made more of a fight of it in the second, but to no avail. Bogomolov broke to lead 5-3, dropped his serve in the following game, but then broke for the fourth and last time when the Scot served to stay in the match at 5-6.

Murray was at a loss to explain what he described as a "poor" performance. He said he had been feeling good on the practice court but "didn't have that spark". He added: "You can't win playing the ball in the middle of the court and making 30 to 40 unforced errors in a two-set match."

The current run could persuade Murray to rethink his coaching situation. Since parting company last summer with Miles Maclagan, his full-time coach, Murray has continued to work with Alex Corretja on a part-time basis. However he said this week that Dani Vallverdu, a friend from their days together at the Sanchez-Casal academy in Barcelona, would be travelling regularly with him in the future.

What is especially worrying for Murray is the fact that he usually enjoys some of his best results on American hard courts. Now he goes into his most challenging part of the year on clay. The world No 5 is due to compete again in Barcelona next month, though he might be tempted to seek a wild card to play before that at the Monte Carlo Masters.

Novak Djokovic was playing his opening match in Miami last night against Denis Istomin, while Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer could both face tough challenges today. Nadal plays Japan's Kei Nishikori while Federer meets the Czech Radek Stepanek.

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