ZHUHAI, China (AFP) – Former number one Andy Murray said he was playing only “top-70, top-60” tennis after his bid to win a first singles title since major hip surgery came to a premature end on Thursday night.
The flagging Briton lost over three sets to the 31st-ranked Australian Alex de Minaur at the Zhuhai Championships in China.
Murray, now 413 in the world, said afterwards that for “the first time in my entire career I did not practise the day before a match” – part of a new routine to wring the most out of his creaking body.
It did not bring a second victory in three days though as De Minaur won 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 in just over two-and-a-half hours. He plays fourth seed Borna Coric from Croatia on Friday in the last eight.
The 32-year-old Murray on Tuesday won his first ATP Tour singles match since career-saving surgery in January with a three-set victory over American Tennys Sandgren.
Murray said he was pleased with aspects of his performance against 20-year-old De Minaur and his hip was fine, but admitted that he still lacked match fitness.
“My feeling tonight was at points I played very well but I was not able to sustain my level,” he said.
“I am not playing top-20, top-30 tennis right now, I maybe am playing only top-70, top-60 level,” he added.
“Physically I was struggling. I could play one or two good points, but then I was trying to finish the points a little bit early and shot selection then goes down when you’re tired.”
Murray will play the China Open in Beijing next week as he ramps up his return, but admitted to AFP this week that he does not expect to recapture the scintillating form that brought him three Grand Slams.
Having enjoyed a day’s rest, Murray started with intent against De Minaur but failed to get his serve firing consistently and clocked up two double faults as he surrendered his second service game.
But the Briton, number one in the world in 2016, broke back twice and sealed the first set when the Australian seventh seed fired long.
De Minaur burst back in the second set however and Murray looked to be fading physically, the match going into a deciding set.
“My body held up well after two pretty long matches but the rest of my body is just tired,” said Murray.
“My level dropped off a little bit and he capitalized on that.”
Top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, meanwhile, had trouble breathing and quit his opening match before the deciding set. The 21-year-old Greek was the strong favourite against unseeded Adrian Mannarino of France and took the first set 6-3.