Candles To The Sun

Miami Masters 1000, Second Round

Bogomolov Jnr d. Murray, 6/1 7/5

As he did last year, Andy Murray made it all the way to the second round in Miami, but no further. Today he fell in straight sets to Alex Bogomolov Jnr. He probably wouldn’t have troubled Bogomolov Snr, but at least he has defended his points. Indeed, if Robin Soderling loses before the quarterfinals – and he nearly did earlier – Murray will move back up to No.4, which tells you something about how closely ranking correlates to form. Really though, Murray was fortunate to survive the first round, notwithstanding the fact that he is seeded and had a bye. Nothing is a given right now. Statistics don’t always tell a story, or at least the right story, but in this case they are indicative: Murray committed 32 unforced errors – recall that his is a low risk game – and was broken in seven out of ten service games. Bogomolov’s career-high ranking of No.97 attests to his prowess on return. It is a nice question whether this loss will hurt more than the one to Donald Young in Indian Wells. It probably doesn’t matter. The prevailing view is that both results are candles to the sun when compared to the Australian Open final.

Widespread opinion is that it was his defeat to Novak Djokovic in Melbourne that propelled  the Scotsman into this lugubrious swan-dive down the form ladder. This assumption forms the foundation for the various theoretical and psychological edifices constructed atop it, the most common being that folding  to Djokovic was more traumatic than either of the two major finals against Roger Federer. The latter is a legend to whom there is no shame in losing, whilst the former is a peer and – until recently – a fellow member of the also-ran club. As explanations go, it sounds pat, which is a good reason to be suspicious of it. Is it actually right? How do we really know when a slump begins, or even why? Surely it is at least as accurate to say that Murray’s current woes began with the semifinal victory over David Ferrer. If we take a longer view still, we can see that he hasn’t exactly been captain reliable for some time now, hardly impressing against Alexandr Dolgopolov in Melbourne, or even against, say, Nicolas Mahut at the Hopman Cup. He was up and down at the World Tour Finals, and mostly down in the weeks prior, losing early to Monfils in Paris, Monaco in Valencia, and Ljubicic in Beijing. The shining exception was his frighteningly complete title run in Shanghai, where he trounced an in-form Federer with a thoroughness even Djokovic can only envy.

Anyone else in the top ten would immediately decamp to Europe – doubles be damned – praying that a change of surface might be just the ticket. Even Federer took that view last year. Unfortunately, the terre battue has never been Murray’s terrain of choice, and the kind of game it requires is  precisely the kind of game he now lacks the ticker for, as we say in Australia. Perhaps, like last year, he will turn things around on the grass, but it’s hardly guaranteed, and there are likely to be a lot of dud results before then.

Andujar d. Verdasco, 3/6 7/6 6/4

Granollers d. Wawrinka, 6/0 6/7 6/3

Still, Murray was hardly the only allegedly formidable player to go out today. Fernando Verdasco proved resourceful in overcoming a one set advantage, thereafter deploying double faults with the surgical precision of the Dresden firebombing. There was no live coverage, but I’m confirming reports that several of his double faults occurred in his opponent’s service game. As I say: resourceful. It was Pablo Andujar’s second ever hardcourt victory. Not to be outdone, Stanislas Warwrinka celebrated not having to face Federer in the quarterfinals by ensuring he won’t have to face anyone. The bagel was a deft touch.

It’s also worth mentioning that with Milos Raonic’s loss to Somdev Devvarman, the much-heralded next chapter of men’s tennis has been almost entirely expurgated from the Miami draw. Lest you’ve forgotten who I’m talking about, here are their names in no particular order: Bernard Tomic, Ricardas Berankis, Jack Sock, Grigor Dimitrov, Donald Young, Ryan Harrison, Ryan Sweeting. If they were an outlaw gang, they’d be called The Wildcards.


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