Murray defiant in defeat – but can he still challenge at Roland Garros?
Andy Murray suffered another shock defeat on Tuesday – this time to Fabio Fognini – so what does that mean for his hopes at Roland Garros?
Defending champion, and world number one, Andy Murray was swept aside by home favourite Fabio Fognini at the Italian Open on Tuesday, being completely outplayed in a 6-2 6-4 defeat.
Only a late spell of resistance when he reeled off three games at 1-5 in the second set kept the scoreline respectable as his worrying slump in form continued ahead of this month's French Open.
An inspired Fognini thumped 31 winners in his first victory over a world number one.
Murray has won only five of his last 10 matches.
MURRAY: I STILL HAVE A CHANCE AT ROLAND GARROS
Murray was defiant in defeat. He said:
" A lot of people think I’ve got no chance of doing anything at the French Open after the last couple of weeks, but I do think I can."
He added. "It’s certainly not going to be easy. I’m going to have to work hard over these next ten days, prepare very well, make the most of every single day and really work my way into the tournament."
Of his form, he added: "I am just not playing well. I mean, the last couple of weeks, they have been tough and I haven't played well. I am just not playing good tennis and I need to try and work out how to turn that around."
HOW DOES THIS SEASON COMPARE TO LAST?
Murray started the year promisingly enough – making the final of the Qatar Open, where he lost to Novak Djokovic, and bounced back from his shock fourth-round Australian Open defeat to Mischa Zverev by beating Fernando Verdasco to claim the Dubai Tennis Championships in early March.
World number one Andy Murray (R) of Great Britain and Spain's Fernando Verdasco celebrate with their respective first and second-place trophies after the conclusion of their ATP final tennis match during the Dubai Duty Free Championships on March 4, 2017Getty Images
However, his form since the beginning of March has fallen well below the impressively high standard he has set himself. Murray began his clay court season with a second round defeat at the Monte Carlo Masters against Vasek Pospisil but bounced back by making the semi-finals in Barcelona, where he lost to rising star Dominic Thiem. However, he then fell to world number 59 Borna Coric at the third round in Madrid and world number 29 at the second round of the Italian Open.
Last year, Murray got to the final in Madrid and won in Italy.
More worryingly, Murray has only beaten one top 10 player this season and that was Tomas Berdych at the Qatar Open in January.
FROM SUMMIT TO SLUMP...
Murray’s year-to-date record currently stands at 16-7 (69.57%). The 30-year-old had an outstanding season in 2016, finishing with a record of 78-9 (89.66%). So the drop is a substantial one.
However, Murray produced a near-superhuman effort to overhaul Novak Djokovic as world number one last year. He set an impossibly high standard and there was always likely to be a drop off. Yet the drop has been more substantial than was expected, even taking into account his recent elbow injury.
However, sometimes, as Eurosport contributor Tumaini Curayol points out, ‘freak’ results are sometime borne of exceptional performance.
HOW DOES THIS BODE FOR THE FRENCH OPEN?
Clay has always been his least favoured surface. He made the final for the first time last season but even so Murray was never likely to enter a French Open as favourite.
The draw and Murray’s seeding (announced on May 26) could prove crucial to his hopes of going deep at Roland Garros. Should he get a favourable draw, he is more than capable of playing himself into form; the aim should be get himself into the second week and go from there.
Rafael Nadal will be the overwhelming favourite given both his clay-court excellence over the last decade and his rather sensational return to form over the past year. Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka have had their own struggles this season while one suspects that Murray would still have enough guile to down Dominic Thiem, Nick Kyrios et al in the best-of-five format at the slams.
Bookmakers always represent a pretty decent gauge of a player’s hopes. Murray is currently fourth favourite and, despite an undoubted slump in form, that seems about par.
Murray is in a bit of a slump but it would be folly to completely dismiss the world number one’s chances in Paris.
With additional reporting from Reuters