It was going to be a tough ask but it wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility for Andy Murray, but, despite his best efforts, Fernando Verdasco, a player he has successfully beaten on 13 occasions, lost to the Spaniard for only the second time.
I went and told the supervisor. I said, ‘What are you guys doing? I mean, there’s clear rules here and you’re allowing this to take place. I don’t get it. Andy Murray
Whether the match would have ended in his favour had he been able to convert a set point – saved by an ace – to take the opening set to gain the psychological advantage, will never be known.
As it turned out he levelled the match in the next but just couldn’t hold on to that momentum and swing the match fully in his favour, but his movement looked good and his tactical brain as well as his defensive play augurs well for his continued rehabilitation from that unfortunate hip injury and surgery.
After three-hours and 23-minutes he lost 7-5 2-6 6-4 6-4 but Verdasco’s victory was marred by Murray pointing out that the Spaniard had broken the rules during the 10-minute Heat break which can now be called between the third and fourth sets.
Players are not allowed to talk to their coaches, which is exactly what Murray said he saw Verdasco doing after finishing a cold shower.
The Scot was furious not only at the breach of the rules, but that the officials did not pick up on it leaving it to him to raise the incident with the umpire Nico Helwerth.
He told the press: “He was sitting there with his coach and doubles partner – I had to tell them because no-one knows the f***ing rules.
“I went and told the supervisor. I said, ‘What are you guys doing? I mean, there’s clear rules here and you’re allowing this to take place. I don’t get it.’
“Then he ran through, ‘Oh, you’re not allowed to speak.’ They obviously weren’t in there for long, but you’ve got to do better than that. This is one of the biggest events in the world.”
The allegation was flatly denied by the Spaniard, seeded 31 for the event, who maintained that while his coach was in the changing room he was speaking to another player there and his coach.
Verdasco said: “Obviously if Andy says that, I don’t want to say that he lies, but I didn’t talk one word with my coach or any one member of my team. I know exactly the rule and I don’t want to be the one breaking it.”
With the officials unable to determine the full facts the matter remains unresolved but Murray, following Verdasco’s comment, posted on Instagram: “I’m off to get a health check as apparently I’ve started imagining things,” followed by the hashtag #liarliarpantsonfire.
He received support from his friend Nick Kyrgios, who tweeted: “Let’s be real, very believable because it is Verdasco lol.”
Returning to the match, Murray believed he played his best since resuming his career.
“It was extremely hot and the conditions were pretty challenging, certainly some of the toughest you’ll play in during the year,” Murray said afterwards. “To be doing as well as I was at the end of the match, considering the lack of practice and matches that I’ve had, was positive.”
He added: “I think some of the tennis I played today was some of the best I’ve played since I had the surgery, but there were also periods in the match, especially in the first set, where I really didn’t play particularly well. I made a lot of mistakes when I was up in that set. I feel like I should have won the first set and didn’t.
“At the end, when my back was against the wall, I came up with some good tennis to make it close and interesting and almost got myself back into it.”
Murray said he had tried to play a more attacking game but had made more mistakes as a consequence. “It’s difficult sometimes to get the balance when you haven’t played as many matches and haven’t practised as much as you would like,” he continued.
“It’s difficult to always make the right decisions when you’re on the court, playing more offensively. It’s something I did a lot more when I was younger. It’s something that is going to take a bit of time getting used to again.”
Playing in his first grand slam event in 14-months he was pleased his body had held up but pointed out he had never had huge expectations. “This is still quite early in the process for me,” he said. “I did all right. I chased balls down right to the end of the match. I wasn’t giving up on points. It wasn’t the most comfortable I felt on a tennis court, but I got through it and fought right to the end.”
Murray’s fellow Briton, Cameron Norrie, also exited the event with some confusion over the 10-minute Heat break. He lost 6-2 2-6 6-4 6-4 to Dusan Lajovic but received an official warning when he allegedly returned 50-seconds late as far as the umpire was concerned!
Norrie was frustrated at converting only three of his 14 break points, but paid credit to Lajovic. “He played great,” Norrie said. “He hit his forehand well. I think he’s going to do well.”