Andy Murray rules out US Open singles return after losing to Richard Gasquet in comeback match

Andy Murray of Great Britain levaes the court after losing to Richard Gasquet of France during Day 3 of the Western and Southern Open at Lindner Family Tennis Center on August 12, 2019 in Mason, Ohio
Andy Murray thanks the supporters after his 6-4, 6-4 defeat Credit: Getty Images 

Andy Murray is an active singles player again. But after a creditable first outing in Cincinnati on Monday – a 6-4, 6-4 defeat at the hands of old foe Richard Gasquet – Murray revealed that he will only play in the doubles events at the upcoming US Open.

This might seem like an unusually decisive call for a man who prefers to keep his options open until the last possible moment. But then Murray’s hand was forced by the United States Tennis Association, who wanted to announce their wild cards for Flushing Meadows on Monday.

“I didn’t want to take a wild card today because I didn’t know how I was going to feel after a match,” said Murray. “I’ll maybe play Winston-Salem [which is staged next week in North Carolina] but I’ll just play doubles and mixed doubles at the US Open.

“I wanted to wait and discuss things with my team, but even if I had been allowed to take a week or ten days there’s no guarantee I would have played [singles] anyway and it was more likely that I was not going to. Because although I did fine today, my legs felt heavy at the end of the match, and that’s probably not going to change a whole lot in the next couple of weeks.”

There was no disgrace in Murray’s performance on Monday, even if he started with understandable tentativeness. Baby steps should be perfectly acceptable for a man whose career was pronounced dead at the start of the year. The main thing is that he has begun the process.

Murray lines up a forehand against Gasquet on Monday Credit: Getty Images

At first, his game lacked fluency and he was uncertain how hard to press the accelerator. What else did anyone expect? But there were also glimpses of the man who stood at No. 1 in the world until exactly this stage of the 2017 season. When you add it all up, this was a remarkable effort for a man who has only been working seriously on his singles game for a fortnight.

Practice sets against Stan Wawrinka and Lucas Pouille over the last few days had reassured Murray that the hand skills are still there, but any competitive player – from the lowliest club hacker to the world’s best – knows that everything feels different when the scoreboard is ticking over for real.

Inevitably, the first few minutes were as edgy as hell. Murray’s average first-serve speed in that opening game was a feeble 99mph. The racket must have felt as heavy in his hand as a bar of gold. But the reading rose: 117mph in his next service game, 119mph in the third.

Murray’s movement was well short of the levels he achieved at his peak, but then he is still rebuilding muscles that were severed when the surgeon made her incisions in January. Also, his old hip issues left mental scars as well as physical ones. After the match, he explained why he was often caught out by Gasquet’s well-disguised drop shot.

“When he drop-shotted, there were a few times I didn’t run for it,” said Murray. “The last 18 months, in practice it was really sore doing that, so I didn’t run for them [drop shots] at all. It’s a bad habit. At the end, I did start reacting, and actually got to some pretty difficult shots. With a few more weeks of practice and hopefully more matches, I could do better.

“I’m obviously happy to be back,” Murray added, “but I’m sitting here disappointed, which I think is probably a good thing if I want to get back to playing at a high level. If I was just happy to be back on the court, and not really worried about the outcome, then I would be a bit concerned about that. But there are lots of things I can work on, so I’ll go away and do that, and hopefully I can do better next time.”

Murray’s popularity in the locker-room could be measured through the presence in the stands of both Feliciano Lopez – who is due to reprise their successful doubles partnership here this week – and his good friend Nick Kyrgios.

Meanwhile Johanna Konta’s poor form since the Wimbledon quarter-final continued as she lost 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 to world No. 74 Rebecca Peterson.

Game, set and match! Gasquet defeats Murray 6-4, 6-4

I mentioned Gasquet can be a bit of a flake, and he looks nervy here. Murray bullies his way to 15-30, but then just misses with a couple of forehands to fall down 40-30 and match point. Can Murray keep himself alive? No, he can't. A missed backhand secures the victory for Gasquet after 1hr 36 min. 

A defeat, but encouraging signs for Murray. He'll play the US Open singles surely?

Murray 4-6, 4-5 Gasquet* (*next server)

Murray does his bit and holds - easily to 15 - to force Gasquet to come out and serve for the match. 

Credit:  USA TODAY Sports

Murray* 4-6, 3-5 Gasquet (*next server)

No sign of blinking from Gasquet just yet. A drop shot - yet another one - and a perfectly=placed drive volley help him to a love hold. Murray is chuntering away at his box and will serve to stay in the match

Murray 4-6, 3-4 Gasquet* (*next server)

Murray gets his own back on Gasquet with a beautifully disguised drop shot of his own. Oof, that was sexy. Murray holds to 15 to keep the pressure on his often flaky opponent. 

Murray* 4-6, 2-4 Gasquet (*next server)

For the second service game running, Gasquet is reeled in from 40-0 to deuce... but again he steels himself to escape unscathed - despite two more double faults. 

Murray 4-6, 2-3 Gasquet* (*next server)

Murray continues his improved hitting from the last couple of games with a solid hold to 15. Now to try and get that break back...

Murray* 4-6, 1-3 Gasquet (*next server) - Gasquet saves a break point and holds

Both men have upped their level in the last few minutes. Gasquet swaggers to 40-0 with some trademark shot-making, but Murray reels him back in with some wonderful counter-punching for deuce. Another double fault then presents Murray with a break back point, which Gasquet saves with a swinging ace down the T. Another ace eventually seals the hold. 

Murray 4-6, 1-2 Gasquet* (*next server)

Better serving and a trademark lob help Murray to a much-needed hold to 15. 

Murray* 4-6, 0-2 Gasquet (*next server)

The scratchy serving seems to be contagious, as Gasquet double faults to gift Murray a break back point at 30-40. He saves it though and eventually digs out the hold to consolidate the break. 

Incidentally, both Feliciano Lopez and Nick Kyrgios are in the crowd to watch Andy...

Murray 4-6, 0-1 Gasquet* (*next server) - Gasquet breaks

As feared, the serve has been a big problem for Murray today. A double fault presents his opponent with three break points, and Gasquet takes the first with a forehand that skims the baseline. A frazzled Murray concedes the point even though it was called out and needed to be challenged by Gasquet. 

In any case, Gasquet is well in control up a set and a break

Murray* 4-6 Gasquet (*next server) - First set Gasquet

Another well-executed drop shot helps Gasquet to a love hold, and with it the first set. Murray not playing badly so far, but Gasquet just a bit stronger. 

A flat atmosphere in a half-empty stadium not helping Murray, who looks like he needs something to really get him going. 

Credit:  Getty Images

Murray 4-5 Gasquet* (*next server)

Murray's most convincing service game by a distance. A love hold leaves Gasquet serving for the first set

Murray* 3-5 Gasquet (*next server)

Brutal stuff from Gasquet, as he nails Murray with a drop shot not once, not twice, but thrice. He holds to 15 and Murray will serve to stay in the first set. Three games in a row for Gasquet in response to Murray's three in a row. 

Murray 3-4 Gasquet* (*next server) - Gasquet breaks

A first ace of the match for Murray will feel mighty good. It ultimately proves to be in vain though, as Gasquet forces another break point and takes this one with a whipped crosscourt forehand winner. 

Murray is raging at himself at the change of ends. Gasquet has had a break point in all of his returning games. 

Murray* 3-3 Gasquet (*next server)

Gasquet stops the bleeding with a comfy hold to 15. Murray a little passive that game. 

Murray 3-2 Gasquet* (*next server)

Some pretty lively bounces are making life difficult for both players. Murray is angry at himself for making a couple of errors to fall down 15-40. Again though he saves the break points and clings on to his serve. A few sloppy Gasquet returns help Murray on his way. 

Three games in a row for Murray. 

Credit: Getty Images

Murray* 2-2 Gasquet (*next server) - Murray breaks back

Much better from Murray this game. A couple of deep returns force three break points, and he takes the third when Gasquet blares a forehand long. Murray celebrates with his first "let's go!" of the day. 

He was a point away from going down a double break in the previous game, now we're back on level terms. 

Murray 1-2 Gasquet* (*next server) - Murray saves a break point and holds

Murray's timing a little off so far. He miscues a couple of groundstrokes to fall down a break point at 30-40.  Murray saves it though when Gasquet drags a forehand wide, and he eventually holds on after edging a couple of long exchanges. 

Big relief for Murray to get on the board. 

Murray* 0-2 Gasquet (*next server)

Gasquet has had injury problems of his own this year, but he was in good nick at the Rogers Cup last week where he picked up a hugely impressive win against world No 5 Kei Nishikori. 

He certainly looks confident here, and holds assertively to love to consolidate the break. 

Murray 0-1 Gasquet* (*next server) - Gasquet breaks

A lot of attention will be on Murray's serve today, which looked beefier in Washington and Montreal having appeared a little under-cooked at Wimbledon. 

Murray begins inauspiciously with a double fault, and it sets the tone for a pretty disappointing game. A couple of missed backhands present Gasquet with two break points at 15-40. Murray saves the first but he pulls a backhand well wide on the second to give up the break. 

Murray looks pretty nervous, understandably. 

Ready? Play

Gasquet won the toss and elected to receive. So Murray will serve first to get us under way...

He's in the building

Murray comes out filming his entrance, which is sweet. A few Saltires in the crowd, and after a short warm-up we'll be under way.  

Game set and match Venus

The legendary American has beaten her compatriot Lauren Davis 7-5, 6-2, so next up on the Centre Court in a few minutes will be Andy Murray and Richard Gasquet. 

He's back... again

Evening all, 

As Eminem once sung, "Guess who's back, back again, Shady's Andy's back, back again. Guess who's back, guess who's back, guess who's back..." 

They turned out to be prophetic words because as you've probably heard, Andy's back. In a doubles sense, he's been back for a couple of months, but this match at the Cincinnati Masters is his first competitive singles outing since he limped out of the Australian Open against Roberto Bautista Agut in January. 

At that point, it seemed his career was over - the Australian Open even put together a video of all Murray's peers saying thank you and goodbye. In his typically contrarian way, Murray watched on and then revealed that he might not actually be retiring just yet. 

Instead he underwent a hip resurfacing operation a couple of weeks later, and following a successful rehab period so far, here he is. 

Credit:  Getty Images

Tonight's opponent will be a familiar foe in Richard Gasquet. As you may recall, it was against Gasquet at Wimbledon in 2008 that Murray flexed his bicep in celebration after recovering from two sets to love down to win in five. Murray also managed that feat at the French Open a couple of years later, and has won the last six meetings between the pair. 

As youngsters, it was actually Gasquet - almost exactly a year older - who was considered the more exciting prospect, and at the time of that 2008 Wimbledon meeting, he was the one being tipped as an imminent future grand-slam champion. Murray's victory though sent the two on divergent career paths - something I wrote about a few years ago here

Whether this evening will have a similarly profound effect we will have to wait and see, but Murray will certainly be hoping tonight is the start of something. The players will take to the court shortly, as soon as Venus Williams and Lauren Davis finish their match. Williams is currently a set up and is 5-2 up in the second.