Andy Murray contemplates dropping down to Challenger level to build up match fitness

Simon Briggs
The Telegraph
Andy Murray lost to American Tennys Sandgren at the Winston-Salem Open overnight - PA
Andy Murray lost to American Tennys Sandgren at the Winston-Salem Open overnight - PA

Andy Murray says he is ready to drop down a level to the Challenger circuit after suffering his second successive defeat on the singles court. He was beaten 7-6, 7-5 on Monday night by Tennys Sandgren, the world No72, in the first round of the ATP 250 event in Winston-Salem.

In a match delayed until after 10pm by an electrical storm, Murray was highly competitive, and might well have won had he only been able to push his first-serve percentage up above a moderate 50.

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As it was, the first set slipped away when he netted a volley to lose the tie-break 10-8. And even though he fought back from a double-break down to level the second set at 5-5, he then lost his own serve for the third time in quick succession as Sandgren wrapped up the match in 2hr 9min.

"I think there was some good stuff in there," Murray told the BBC after his defeat. "I think my ball striking was better than last week [when he lost to old foe Richard Gasquet in the first round of the Cincinnati Masters]. I hit quite a few more winners, came to the net quite a lot. Obviously I didn't win but I do feel I was a bit more in control of what was happening out there.

"Physically I felt okay in the rallies, but I did notice in the second set that my first serve wasn't as good, and I think maybe my legs were a little bit heavy at the end there."

<span>Murray could now make an appearance at the Murray Trophy in Glasgow next month </span> <span>Credit: AP Photo </span>
Murray could now make an appearance at the Murray Trophy in Glasgow next month Credit: AP Photo

Murray’s frustration boiled over after the lengthy first-set tie-break, and he treated the support staff in his player box to an angry rant. “No-one in the team ever wants to say anything when there’s something wrong - never,” he said. “Everything is perfect all the f---ing time. Kills me. F---ing joke.”

Murray is now booked to return home, but he has next week’s Challenger event in Mallorca – the Rafa Nadal Open – in his sights as a possible next appointment. "I think for my body it would be a good thing because I do feel at that level I will be winning matches each week," Murray said.

"And I think it would be good for my game as well because I'm not quite seeing the points as I used to. And if I can get more matches, I'll start to work that out a little bit quicker, and see it faster.

"I would probably rather stay playing outdoors because the next couple of tour events I'm playing are outdoors in Asia, but I haven't given it tons of thought."

Murray has already entered the ATP events in Zhuhai and Beijing in late September. These commitments make it unlikely that he will participate in the Lawn Tennis Association’s new Challenger in Glasgow in the week starting Sept 16, even though the Murray Trophy is named after him and his brother Jamie.

Meanwhile, Dan Evans also spoke to the BBC in Winston-Salem, explaining his reasons for the unexpected split with his coach David Felgate in Washington last month.

It seems that their relationship never quite recovered from the disappointment of Evans’s epic defeat at the hands of Joao Sousa in the third round of Wimbledon. Looking forward, Evans said that he wanted to play more aggressively and use the net more.

"I saw a few things different, I think, to the way he saw it," said Evans, who stands at a creditable No35 in the ATP’s Race to London (a table based on rankings points won in 2019 only). "It was amicable, no hard feelings. I sat down and said it was going to come to an end, and that was that.

<span>Evans split with his coach David Felgate in Washington last month</span> <span>Credit: Getty images </span>
Evans split with his coach David Felgate in Washington last month Credit: Getty images

"I wanted to go a different way and try something new. I've never had to do that before. It was not an easy conversation but it was better for me to say it there and then than carry on until the end of this trip, and waste this trip.

"I sort of felt that way as soon as I came back and we started again after Wimbledon. Maybe I lost my spark with him, but it just didn't feel right, and I thought it needed to change. I thought, over the grass, I was pretty defensive and not really putting my game out there. I felt it was time for a new start – to make that change, and to play that way.”

Evans is working with Joshua Milton, a British coach based in San Diego, in Winston-Salem this week. He will team up with Davis Cup captain Leon Smith in New York while he decides on his next coaching appointment.

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