Andy Murray responded to his latest setback – a straight-sets defeat in Marseille on Tuesday night – by floating a possible drop down in level to the second-tier Challenger Tour.
Murray’s 7-5, 6-4 loss to Tomas Machac – a big-hitting Czech ranked No 66 in the world – was his third straight defeat in 2024 and his sixth in a row since October.
Afterwards, he told French reporters that he needs to rediscover a winning habit. Which could involve playing at a lower level – although probably not immediately. His next scheduled ATP event is Doha in 12 days’ time, where he will be defending 150 rankings points after reaching the final last year. Were he to enter Challenger events, the most likely period would be in the late spring when the main tour moves onto clay – his least favoured surface.
“The only way is to be on the match court and try and find ways to win,” said Murray, “[because] what happens on the practice court doesn’t always translate into matches. My coach [Ivan Lendl] in 2016, when I finished No 1 in the world, told me I won two or three practice sets in the whole year. This year I have won almost every practice set I have played and I cannot win a match on the court. Maybe dropping down a level [is the solution], playing Challengers to build confidence that way.”
In Tuesday’s match, Murray came back from an early break to equalise, and briefly looked capable of taking charge of the match. But then, when he found himself under pressure at 5-5, 30-all, he responded with a double-fault and an unforced error.
‘I am playing because I love the game’
He later ascribed his poor recent form to a lack of confidence at big moments, which crept up on him at the end of last season after he twice failed to close out a 5-2 deciding-set lead against Australian No 1 Alex De Minaur.
“I can compete with the guys, but I haven’t won the matches, and when you lose them, you lose confidence,” Murray explained. “I never had that in my whole career. When I lost one week early, usually the next week it was semi-finals, finals, winning. Now I’ve lost a lot, and close matches as well. It’s something I’ve not really experienced before.”
Murray also addressed his recent social-media flare-up. “Do me a favour,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter, after a BBC column, written by long-time tennis reporter Kheredine Idessane, questioned whether he was tarnishing his legacy by battling on in the face of waning results.
“I wasn’t mad,” Murray explained. “I didn’t read it and was screaming at my phone. I was just a little bit disappointed. People who follow tennis and know my journey, I would hope would understand how difficult it is to do what I am doing with the issue that I have with my hip. It has not really been done in any other sport.
“The easy thing for me to do would have been to stop when I had the operation and said: ‘I am not going to play anymore’. I am playing because I love the game. I still really enjoy the practising and the training and the travelling. Right now the competing is difficult for sure [but] a couple of losses now won’t change what I have achieved throughout my career.
“I know the guy who did it for a very long time, and just didn’t agree that somehow by competing now, I was affecting what I achieved when I was fit and healthy and had two hips.”