Wimbledon 2021 - 'Is it worth it?' - What now for Andy Murray after Wimbledon defeat to Denis Shapovalov?
What next for Andy Murray after losing in the third round of Wimbledon to Denis Shapovalov? The three-time Grand Slam champion seemed to be unsure whether he is still able to compete at the top of the game. Murray was positive to come through three matches after so many injury problems, but was not happy with his performance.
Wimbledon Day 5 highlights: Murray out, Djokovic through
"There is more ahead, we didn’t know that, but I think we can say that now," mused Andrew Castle following Andy Murray’s third-round defeat to Denis Shapovalov at Wimbledon. Three matches played, two wins, 12 sets, and a heap of late-night entertainment. Considering his lack of tennis this year, was this par for the course for Murray? Many thought yes, perhaps even better than expected, but Murray didn’t seem so sure.
"The positive part is getting through the matches and feeling OK physically and not getting injured. That’s good but then there is a part of me that feels a bit like I have put in so much work the last three months and ultimately didn’t play how I would want and expect, and it’s like, is it worth it? Is all of that training and everything that you’re doing in the gym, unless you’re able to practise and improve your game and get matches and get a run of tournaments, is it worth all of the work that you’re doing?
"There is part of me that feels like, yes, it is, because I had great memories and stuff from this event and playing in some brilliant atmospheres. But I finished the match tonight and I’m saying to my team, ‘I’m just not happy with how I played’."
The last 18 months have not been easy for Murray. He’s had numerous injury setbacks and has not managed to play anywhere near as many matches as he would have liked. He has admitted his frustrations with the amount of rehab and has spoken often about his desire to test himself against the best in the world again. His disappointment after the defeat to Shapovalov was not because he lost the match – I'm not expecting and saying I would beat Denis. He's a brilliant player” – but because it wasn’t closer.
"I feel like I can do a lot better than I did this evening."
Murray has been preparing for this summer for months, trying to get back to peak fitness to see where his place really he is in the game right now. He said ahead of Wimbledon that he hoped to "put in a solid performance", but there was also optimism that his grass-court experience might carry him further than expected.
"I think I can do well. I don’t think there are that many guys who are unbelievably comfortable on the grass – so that plays in my favour."
In both his wins he was pushed hard. Against 24th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili in the first round he looked to be heading for a solid win until wobbling and letting a 5-0 lead in the third set slip. Murray’s powers of recovery came to the fore again against German qualifier Oscar Otte as he conjured up one of his most memorable comebacks in recent memory. His last five-set win was less than a year ago – at the US Open against Yoshihito Nishioka – but this was different. This was on his home turf, the roof closed on Centre Court, and the crowd roaring him on. That he sealed the win with a trademark lob capped things off perfectly.
Against Shapovalov it was more one-sided. The 10th seed was fresher – having not played a second-round match after his opponent withdrew – and too powerful, firing 45 winners compared to 16 from Murray. This was only the third time since Murray’s last title win in November 2019 that he had played three rounds at an ATP-level tournament. The only other time was at the Western & Southern Open last summer, when he also got blown out by a Canadian – Milos Raonic – in straight sets. Murray described his performance that day as poor", and wasn’t much more complimentary about his showing against Shapovalov.
"There were moments of really good tennis mixed in with some really bad moments."
Andy Murray of Great Britain reacts during his men's singles third round match against Denis Shapovalov of Canada during Day Five of The Championships - Wimbledon 2021
This week has definitely not been Murray at his very best in terms of shot making. There were misses, including a smash into the net from on top of the net against Otte that had the crowd laughing in disbelief. And both his wins seemed to be aided by a lengthy break for the Centre Court roof to close at the end of the third set. "I enjoyed the end [of the match]. The middle part not so much, he admitted after his second-round win.
This was the first time that Murray had lost in the third round of Wimbledon since 2005, but returning to the All England Club this week has brought out the best in him. He might not be able to make all the shots he once did as world No 1, but he’s still got power on both sides and still runs for absolutely everything, which nearly saw him became another Centre Court casualty after a couple of nasty-looking slips. He’s still exasperated with himself at every shot he misses and still lets his box know exactly how he is feeling. He seemed to show signs that he is heading in the right direction, especially where he has come from; two surgeries in the last few years, only two wins on the ATP Tour since October 2020, and playing at Wimbledon for the first time since 2017.
Murray acknowledged that better times could still be ahead.
"I'm hoping that providing I can stay on the court consistently for two, three, four months, my tennis will get back to a high level."
The rest of the year feels crucial for Murray. Next on his agenda is the Olympics, where he will be looking to win a third gold medal in a row. After Tokyo it’s onto the US summer, then perhaps the Far East or the re-arranged Masters tournament in Indian Wells in October.
Much will depend on his fitness and whether he can stay healthy. If he suffers more setbacks there must come a time when he will feel that another long stretch of recovery work is not worth the reward. But if he can continue to work his way back and get more matches under his belt then perhaps there is more to come. How much more is not clear, and it remains to be seen whether it’s enough to keep Murray going for the long-term.