After winning matches and fans in Melbourne a few weeks ago, it seems like Andy Murray is suffering from an extended Australian Open let down, in more ways than one.
Murray pulled out of last week’s Marseille Open, claiming he needed more recovery time after his run to the Australian Open finals. His withdrawal upset the French tournament director so much that he (may or may not have) called for disciplinary action from the ATP. (click here for more.)
Andy entered the Federer-free field in Dubai this week as a favorite, but was shocked out of the second round on Wednesday, losing to World No. 38 Janko Tipsarevic: 7-6, 4-6, 6-4. It wasn’t his early exit that sparked the controversy – top guys like Tsonga, Davydenko and now Cilic are all out before the quarterfinals – but his candid post-match remarks rankled.
Here’s some of what Murray said in his post-match presser (click here for more):
“I would have liked to have won (the match vs. Tipsarevic), but it’s not the end of the world. You know, if it was a slam or something, my tactics and my game style would have been a bit different. You know, like I said, I wasn’t necessarily coming in as well prepared as I have done in previous tournaments. You know, I was trying different things. So I made more mistakes than normal, and I went for a lot tonight. Did a lot of winners, lot more than usual, and probably made more mistakes. So it was a different sort of match for me.
“I need to make sure I’m playing my best tennis at Indian Wells and Miami. I need to be in top shape for there. I said before the start of the tournament I hadn’t trained as much and I can’t expect to play my best tennis.
“I’m not using the match (in Dubai) as a practice session. But I said at the start of the year that, you know, when I’m getting ready for the Slams and the big events, you know, that you need to try some things. If you ask someone like Roger how he gets himself ready, it’s not necessarily about winning the week before or playing your best the week before. It’s playing your best at the right times of the year. You know, I would have liked to have practiced and trained a little bit longer. Like I said, after Australia I took quite a long break. So I wasn’t expecting to come and play my best. You know, I’m obviously disappointed to lose, but it’s definitely not the end of the world.
“You know, I could have withdrawn from the event, but I’d get a lot of stick for not playing. Then obviously I come. The stuff that I was doing in the matches here are similar to what I’d be doing if I was training this week. I’d be playing practice sets and working on serve-and-volley and coming forward, you know and taking more risks.
“I’m sure Roger didn’t do a whole lot after Australia. I needed to take a break. My legs and stuff and what not were sore and hurting. And it would have been stupid to try and — it would have been silly to have tried to play in Marseille last week. It was sort of a latish decision to play here. So definitely right to take the break. I’ll feel really good going into Indian Wells, I’m sure.“
Tournament organizers – who reportedly pay appearance fees approaching the half-million dollar mark to entice reluctant stars to the Dubai desert – heard Andy’s message loud and clear. And they aren’t pleased – via The Guardian:
“It’s disappointing that it could be construed in a way which indicates he wasn’t taking the event quite as seriously as he does,” said John Beddington, a Barclays consultant. “It’s as disappointing for us as it is for Dubai Duty Free who work so hard and operate the event.”
“Andy’s public persona has improved so much over the last 18 months, in tandem with his dramatically improved tennis,” said Beddington. “It’s just unfortunate that remarks like these slip out. At least you know he’s being honest. Possibly a more experienced player would think this but wouldn’t say it for fear it would hurt the event.”
Here’s more from Barclays’s Boddington from the Daily Mail (though take with a grain of salt, as the Marseille Tournament Director said he was mis-quoted by the paper last week.)
“We are disappointed that he lost and also that he made remarks which were not really necessary. While we appreciate that top players value Grand Slams over other tournaments, because of their prestige and points, this is one of the top events at “500” level on the ATP Tour.
“Dubai Duty Free (the event organisers) looked after him very well and put him up in the (famously luxurious) Burj Al Arab hotel and tried to make his stay here as comfortable as possible. If he is going to be testing out new strategies, a match of this significance was probably not the place to do it.“
Andy Murray was just being honest – and perhaps reacting to those who criticized him for not being aggressive enough in the Australian Open final – “I took your advice vs. Tipsarevic and lost. So there.” It was also interesting that Andy used the “What Would Roger Do?” defense a couple times. After all, the only appearance Roger’s made at the tournament in the past two years has been at the players’ party. And Andy’s correct; Roger has been forthright about streamlining his scheduling to allow him to peak at the majors. Federer even praised God last year in Miami, when he lost early and could return to the European clay – not exactly music to the ears of American tournament directors.
But here’s another honest truth: Until Murray emulates Roger’s results in the Majors, he should be careful how he emulates him in the press room.