Australian Open: Andy Murray loses in straight sets to Taro Daniel in Melbourne

Australian Open: Andy Murray loses in straight sets to Taro Daniel in Melbourne
Andy Murray
Andy Murray is a five-time runner-up at the Australian Open
Dates: 17-30 January Venue: Melbourne Park
Coverage: Daily radio commentaries on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, BBC Sport website and app, with selected live text commentaries online; TV highlights from middle Saturday.

The hurt from disappointing defeats “does not get any easier” said Andy Murray after a subdued display against Japan’s Taro Daniel saw him knocked out of the Australian Open in round two.

Britain’s Murray lost 6-4 6-4 6-4 to qualifier Daniel – ranked below him at 120 in the world – on John Cain Arena.

It was a far cry from the 34-year-old’s performance in Tuesday’s victory over 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili.

“When you know you’ve not got many years left it is frustrating,” he said.

“I put a lot into the off-season for practising and preparing, hopefully to not play like that in the big tournaments.

“So it is especially disappointing when you perform like that.”

Former world number one Murray, now ranked 113th, had never previously lost a Grand Slam match to an opponent ranked as low as Daniel.

For 28-year-old Daniel, victory meant he reached the third round of a major for the first time in his career.

Murray shot a disconsolate look towards his box after Daniel clinched victory with a crisp backhand volley on his first match point.

The three-time Grand Slam champion walked off court shaking his head before giving a quick thumbs up to a crowd glad to see him back at Melbourne Park and appreciative of his efforts.

Murray’s exit was soon followed by defeat for Emma Raducanu, meaning Dan Evans is the final Briton left in the singles.

Murray unable to extend Melbourne return

The point Murray has fought back to borders on a miracle, resurrecting his career after a hip surgery that he initially feared would bring his playing days to an end.

The victory against Georgia’s Basilashvili was particularly poignant as it came on the same Melbourne court where, in 2019, he thought he might have played his final match.

Since then, the former Wimbledon and US Open champion has returned to the sport with a metal hip and even won an ATP title.

Last week Murray was denied another trophy, losing in the Sydney final, and came to Melbourne with the target of making a deeper run in a Grand Slam tournament.

At face value, Daniel appeared to be someone of the ranking and pedigree that Murray should be able to beat.

But in reality he faced a sharp opponent brimming with confidence after coming through qualifying and the first round without dropping a set.

“After a good win in the first round I created an opportunity for myself. It was probably a match I should win and I didn’t take that chance,” Murray told BBC Sport.

“I was not able to sustain a good enough level for long enough, whereas he was solid throughout.

“I’m obviously very disappointed with that.”

‘I felt fine physically’, says Murray

Murray appeared to lack energy throughout but said afterwards he felt fine physically and had recovered well from his four-hour opening match.

“That was probably the only positive I can take from today,” he added.

“The match in the first round was a long one but I was happy with how I pulled up from it.”

After losing serve in a 13-minute third game, he broke back for 3-3 but then produced a double fault as Daniel instantly regained a lead that allowed him to serve out the first set.

Murray made 16 unforced errors in the opening set, while his opponent made seven.

The Japanese player continued to outnumber them with winners in the second set and, after seeing off four break points to hold for 1-1, broke Murray’s serve again in the third game.

Murray never looked like retrieving it, winning only two more points on return as Daniel moved within one more set of the most notable win of his career.

However nerves started to emerge for Daniel and he gifted his opponent a break in the second game of the third set with a double fault.

Finally it brought out more emotion from Murray, who gave a gentle shake of the racquet to his box. But he then made the same mistake to allow Daniel to put the set back on serve.

The crowd tried their best to gee up Murray but it proved fruitless as he lost the final three games to end his brief return to Melbourne with a whimper.

“Winning a big match like this is unbelievable,” said Daniel.

“It was an amazing level from me, I was getting nervous in the third set.

“I tried not to make a big deal about this – everyone said I was playing Murray – but I tried to treat it like another match.”

Why Murray was stung so much by this defeat – analysis

No singles player had returned to the top level after having the hip resurfacing operation which Murray had almost three years ago to the day.

Murray, as we well know, is no ordinary player. The reason he did battle back was his insatiable appetite for playing tennis and competing at the highest level.

That’s why this defeat against Daniel stung the Scot so much.

Murray knew this was an excellent opportunity to reach the third round of a Grand Slam at a place where the conditions have long suited him.

He also knows that there will not be too many more opportunities like this in the future.

This was arguably as disappointed as Metal Murray has looked and sounded after a loss in his renaissance era.

So what were the reasons behind his subdued and error-strewn display?

While Murray has played seven matches in 10 days – the sort of intensity which he would require to go deep at a major – he brushed off concerns about his physical state.

However, he did acknowledge that playing a tournament in the week before a Grand Slam was unusual for him – and the top players with whom he seeks to compete with once again.

Recently changing racquets – using a larger-sized head and trying to create a larger margin for error – was not an excuse for losing to Daniel, he said, but something which would have to be factored into his performances over the next couple of months.

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