Andy Murray took a late wild card into the ATP Winston-Salem tournament at Wake Forest University in North Carolina to aid his preparations ahead of the US Open, which starts on Monday in New York, and he feels these remain on track, despite a second loss to American Frances Tiafoe on Tuesday.
It's frustrating because if I wasn't moving great and not feeling good physically then I would be a bit easier on myself. But when I'm winning a low percentage of second-serve points, that's got nothing to do with the physical side of things. Andy Murray
Murray went down 6-7(7) 3-6 to Tiafoe after cruising through his opening match in straight sets against lucky loser Noah Rubin, who attended the University and was a last minute replacement for Australia’s Nick Kyrgios.
Rubin lost a 2-hour qualifying match just an hour before finding himself on court again against Murray, the former World No 1.
Ranked 51 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, Tiafoe saved 3 sets points on serve against Murray at 4-5 in the first set, before running away with the match in an hour 50 minutes played in the hot and humid conditions.
Tiafoe dropped out of the Top 50 in February 2019 after losing his quarter-final points from the 2019 Australian Open, and he has struggled since to get himself back, but a deep run at Winston-Salem should see him regain a slot in the elite group ahead of the US Open.
The American will now play Brazil’s Thiago Monteiro, who defeated American lucky loser Eduardo Nava. 7-5 6-1.
Murray, at 34, has been battling injuries, including a groin problem that has limited his time on court this season.
“The positive thing is that I moved well and served well but my level is up and down, with no real consistency,” Murray said. “There are moments in matches where I play well and then I make mistakes or miss returns.
“I wish I wasn’t doing that. My level is around 50 or 60 in the world.
“It’s frustrating because if I wasn’t moving great and not feeling good physically then I would be a bit easier on myself.
“But when I’m winning a low percentage of second-serve points, that’s got nothing to do with the physical side of things.”
Murray served 10 aces and rallied from 0-40 at 3-all in the first set before holding 3 set points on Tiafoe’s serve in the 10th game.
He was frustrated by a stream of uncharacteristic loose miscues, and the 47% points won on second serve, and 35% points won on second-serve return proved costly against Tiafoe, who effectively dismantled the Scot with a strong all around service game.
Tiafoe blasted 3 aces, won 76 percent of his first serve points and 65 percent on his second delivery in the 1 hour 49 minute contest.
The two had met just once before when Murray won a 3-set thriller in Cincinnati 2020.
Murray, who has dropped 9 places to World No 114 in the latest rankings, now heads to the US Open, where he won the first of his 3 Grand Slam titles in 2012.
23-year-old Tiafoe has had a productive couple of weeks during the American hard-court swing, reaching the 3rd round at the Toronto Masters and a win over France’s Ugo Humbert in Cincinnati last week.
Meanwhile, Hungarian 4th seed Marton Fucsovics beat Japan’s Yosuke Watanuki, 7-5 6-1 and Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland upset 5th seeded Alexander Bublik from Kazakstan, 6-2 7-6(5).
Spanish teen Carlos Alcaraz withstood 10 aces from big-serving Australian Alexei Popyrin to grind out a 6-7(9) 6-1 7-6(1) win in a match that finished just minutes short of midnight.
The 15th seed won a stunning 87 per cent of points on his second serve and next faces a first-time meeting with tough Hungarian Marton Fucsovics.
Elsewhere, British No 1 Dan Evans reached the 3rd round with a 3-6 6-4 6-1 win over French qualifier Lucas Pouille, ending a run of 4 successive defeats since his third-round exit at Wimbledon.
Seeded 3, Evans also took a wild-card to compete at Winston-Salem and received a first round bye.
Evans, who missed the Tokyo Olympics after a positive Covid-19 test, faces another Frenchman Richard Gasquet, the 14th seed in the round of 16, who edged past Egor Gerasimov from Belarus, 7-6(4) 7-6(6).
Top seed Pablo Carreno Busta opened his account with a 6-3 3-6 6-4 win over Korea’s Soonwoo Kwon.