Had the evening session in Rotterdam been a team event between Russia and Britain, the results would have provided the former with an unassailable lead with the doubles being abandoned.
I want to be playing at this level because I learn a lot from a match like tonight Andy Murray
Both Andy Murray and Cameron Norrie crashed out in straight sets in rapid succession to the two Muscovites.
Murray fell to the fourth seeded Andrei Rublev, 7-5 6-2 but the 2009 Rotterdam champion wasn’t disheartened by his second-round loss, while Cameron crumbled under the weight of Karen Khachanov’s powerful game, 6-2 6-2.
Playing thanks to a wildcard, the former world number one from Dunblane, is still fighting his way back to full fitness and for much of the match, held his own against the inform young Russian only to visibly tired as the match went on.
There were plenty of positive signs for Murray to take away, especially from the opening set where he defended and moved about the court well to keep the world number eight on his toes.
In the eleventh game the fatigue started to show as he gifted a break point to his opponent, having earlier fended off two of them in the ninth game.
The Scot smashed his racket in anger at falling behind and fought back immediately earning himself two break points as Rublev served out for the set but was unable to convert either of them.
Frustrated at falling behind, Murray started to berate himself by muttering between points – at one point declaring “I’m totally unprepared for this.”
His resistance eventually crumbled in the fifth game as Rublev powered his way into the quarter-finals by claiming five games in a row.
“I want to be playing at this level because I learn a lot from a match like tonight,” said Murray, who had revealed earlier that he constantly received messages telling him to retire when he loses. He has subsequently shut down his social media accounts.
“The issues and the mistakes that you make get amplified more at this level… It is getting that balance right between getting enough matches and then also playing at a level where I am able to learn and pick things up as quickly as possible. I do feel tonight there were some good, positive signs there. Just when it mattered, I wasn’t good enough. I will need to improve.
“I thought I moved well for the first hour or so,” he added. “He is one of the bigger hitters on the Tour and, in the first set, I didn’t feel like he was getting too many free points from the back of the court. He was having to work hard to get the ball through me. I thought that was positive.”
Rublev admitted it hadn’t been easy to quell the Brit.
“It was a really tough match; I mean we had a lot of rallies, like I said before with Andy I cannot rush, I cannot play my usual style of play, he’s hitting every single ball so I need to slow down,” Rublev said.
“I need to mix (my shots) because Andy is really great at defence and he make you play tough balls that is not easy to attack. He is waiting for the moment for you to rush, and in my case, I needed to slow down and to wait for the right ball to play rallies and then, when you have the right ball, to play aggressive and take a lead.”
Reflecting on the actual match, Murray, who before the match had revealed he was playing to save his acreer, added: “I lost my serve from 30/0. I hit two double faults and a bad forehand. To me, that is just not good enough.
“When you are playing one of the best players in the world in those moments, if they come up with something great to win those points you come off [the court] and say it is understandable. I felt in that moment at the end of the first set that I blew it a bit. I had 15/40 in the next game to break back and I think I messed up a little bit there as well.
“In the second [set], he was much better than me. No question about that. I think at the end of the first set, I messed up… I am not used to making those errors in those moments and I am finding that quite frustrating and I am finding myself mentally looking back on those moments a little bit too much, which maybe, affected me a bit in the second set. There were some good things in there but I am disappointed because I messed the end of the first set up. I probably should have won the first set.”
Norrie, who is targeting atop 30 ranking this year, then followed him onto the Rotterdam Ahoy Arena’s Centre Court for the final match of the day.
However, the British No.3, world ranked 65, was unable to make much of an impression on Khachanov who blasted 6 aces past him.
Norrie replied with two of his own, but 3 double faults didn’t help him either, nor his failure to convert any of the three break points he managed to create.
In contrast Khachanov converted four of the eight which came his way to control proceedings and end British hopes in Rotterdam.