After a Lopsided Loss at Wimbledon, Andy Murray Questions His Future
WIMBLEDON, England — After a year that saw Wimbledon canceled for the first time since World War II, the brief interruption on Centre Court on Friday afternoon was relatively sparkling.
As the 2017 champion Garbiñe Muguruza tossed the ball in the air for her serve in the final game of the first set, a loud pop broke the silence. A spectator in the stands had uncorked a bottle of Champagne.
Muguruza regrouped and the crowd chortled, a fitting reaction at a tournament where the outlook has been decidedly cheerful, albeit with aging star players contemplating how many sips they might have left.
Though the skies have been only intermittently sunny, and the slick grass tripped up many athletes in the opening days, the first week of Wimbledon has seen a sport and a country emerge for its favorite garden party. Though, in response to the pandemic that led to last year’s cancellation, there are pumps of hand sanitizer hidden among the hydrangeas.
Many of the regular sights of Wimbledon were on display Friday. The Duchess of Cambridge, one of the biggest tennis fans in the British royal family, was seated in the front row. The strawberries were ripe, and the crowd was its usual patchwork of pastel summer suits, sundresses and smiling faces.
There is no mask mandate for fans seated in the stands. In order to enter the grounds, a spectator must show either proof of double Covid-19 vaccination or a recent negative test result.
The grounds have been limited to half the usual capacity, and it is expected that Centre Court will be full for the men’s and women’s finals next weekend.
“It’s felt great that it’s feeling normal,” said the 23rd-seeded Madison Keys, who defeated the 13th-seeded Elise Mertens, 7-5, 6-3. Keys, however, added that her Wimbledon experience away from the court had been considerably different from the usual, because players are confined to a hotel.
Perhaps adding to the sense of normalcy here, British players sustained disappointing losses back-to-back on Centre Court on Friday.
The 22nd-seeded Daniel Evans, the highest-ranked British singles player, lost, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, to the American Sebastian Korda, who made his Centre Court debut just three days before his 21st birthday.
Then came Andy Murray, the two-time Wimbledon champion who had ended a 77-year men’s singles title drought for his homeland by winning in 2013.
Murray played before a raucous Centre Court crowds for his first two matches this year, particularly his five-set, second-round win over Oscar Otte, after which Murray was so delighted that he began giving fans various items from the court that didn’t belong to him, such as an umbrella used by the ball boys.
But on Friday evening, Murray was as flat as day-old Champagne. He was routed, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, by the 10th-seeded Denis Shapovalov in the most lopsided loss among his 70 Wimbledon matches.
“It was great playing in front of the crowds again,” Murray said. “I got amazing support here. Yeah, I’m very thankful for that, something I have missed. Yeah, it kind of reminds you, as well, yeah, why you do all of the work and everything.”
By the end of his post-match news conference, Murray’s appreciation for the setting was fading.
After noting that he was thankful not to have reinjured himself after years of struggling with persistent hip injuries, Murray, 34, leaned into the more bitter feelings and questions the decisive loss had raised.
“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,” he said. “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 practice and improve your game and get matches and a run of tournaments, like, is it worth all of the work that you’re doing?”
Murray then weighed both possible answers.
“There is part of me that feels like, yes, it is, because I had great memories and stuff from this event and played in some brilliant atmosphere,” he said. “But then, also, I finished the match tonight and I’m saying to my team, ‘Yeah, I’m just not happy with how I played.’”
Murray seemed to be setting an ultimatum for his career.
“Unless me and my team can find a way of keeping me on the court for a consistent period of time and allow me to practice the way that I need to to compete with these guys, then, yeah, then that’s when the discussions about what I do next will come in,” he said. “Because I have genuinely put a lot into this to get to this point, but I’m not being able to practice and prepare how I need to to perform how I would like at these events.”
Murray then clarified that he hadn’t expected to sail past Shapovalov.
“He’s a brilliant player,” Murray said. “But I feel like I can do a lot better than what I did this evening.”
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