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Andy Murray on retirement: ‘I’m likely not going to play past this summer’

Andy Murray looking glum
Andy Murray was in hopeless form returning serve against Ugo Humbert - REUTERS/Amr Alfiky

Andy Murray is finally beginning to clarify his retirement plans after another one-sided defeat in which he could be heard saying “I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.”

Speaking after his 6-2, 6-4 defeat at the hands of France’s Ugo Humbert, Murray said: “I’m likely not going to play past this summer. I get asked about it after every single match that I play, every single tournament that I play. I’m bored of the question, to be honest.”

The only remaining debate would be whether Murray finishes at Wimbledon or waits for the Olympics, which start just under a fortnight later. And in an interview with BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday morning, he expressed enthusiasm for a fifth appearance at the Games.

“Hopefully I can get the chance to compete at another one,” said Murray of the Olympics, where he carried the flag for Great Britain in 2016 while also becoming the only man to successfully defend a singles title.

Sources suggest that, while Murray would have little chance of earning a medal in the singles event on the clay of Roland Garros – which is his least favourite surface, he has his eye on the doubles. One scenario might see him partnering his friend Dan Evans.

During the same BBC interview, Murray admitted that he has yet to decide quite how he will handle his departure from the sport at the age of 36.

“When the time is right I will probably say something before I play my last match and my last tournament,” he said. “Whether I say anything months ahead of the time I don’t know.

“There’s no right way of finishing your career and everyone is different so what might be the right way for [Roger] Federer might not be the right way for [Rafael] Nadal, might not be the right way for [Novak] Djokovic.”

Murray’s performance in Dubai on Wednesday only added to the sense of a man on borrowed time. The left-handed Humbert recently cracked the world’s top 20 for the first time, so he is a player in form. But that can hardly explain the ineffectuality of Murray’s return game.

Usually known as one of the world’s greatest returners, Murray is also well-versed in dealing with a swinging lefty serve, as he grew up facing his elder brother Jamie on the courts of Dunblane.

Against Humbert, however, he was utterly at a loss. In the first set, he won just a single point during four return games, which the commentators suggested might be a career low. After one misplaced forehand, he started yelling at the coaches in his player box, saying “I don’t have a clue what I’m doing. Oh God. Awful feelings. Awful feelings on the tennis court. Horrific.”

Murray also got told off by the chair umpire for conversing with his coach Mark Hilton at the end of the first set. According to the latest rules on the ATP Tour, any guidance from coaches during matches has to be one-way, rather than an exchange between the two parties.

Murray has given little sense of enjoying his tennis this year, even though there have been occasional flickers of promise. At last week’s tournament in Doha, he appeared to be getting on top of 18-year-old Czech prodigy Jakub Mensik, only to botch a routine volley that would have landed him the opening set. Mensik went on to reach the final, as Murray had at that event last year.

The loss of those points in Doha sent Murray tumbling down 17 places to No 67 in the world rankings, although he may regain a few spots after his first-round win over Denis Shapovalov in Dubai on Monday.

The start of his present slump can be dated back to Beijing in late September, when he squandered a 5-2 deciding-set lead against Australian No 1 Alex de Minaur. That took a large bite out of his already fragile confidence, and began a run of 13 matches in which he has scored only three wins: comfortably the worst streak of his career.

Speaking to Sky Sports this week, Murray revealed that he had even changed his racket set-up over the off-season, after sticking with the same formula for the best part of two decades. It was a clear indication of a man who is searching for solutions. His many admirers can only hope that he manages to drag a few more bloody-minded victories from his five remaining months on the tour.

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