Andy Murray was ceremoniously ousted today in Rome by the young Argentine, Juan Monaco. Murray's game never seemed to recover after a brief meltdown when a foot fault was called at 5-5 and a brief exchange ensued with the chair umpire.
To Monaco’s credit, he stepped up his game after a lackluster first set and was able to hold on to beat the Scot during second round action at the Rome Masters. Throughout the match, a number of things stood out with Murray's play on the clay court.
Where Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are able to slide into their shots on clay, Murray uses the slide to stop his momentum, which hurts his timing and recovery.
Where Nadal and Federer incorporate the slide into their shots, improving their recovery time back to center court, Murray takes an extra second to stop sliding and then gets back to the center of court. A player like Nadal can do this because he hits the ball so well on the run.
Unlike Nadal, one of Murray’s biggest flaws is his inability to hit the ball effectively on the run. Monaco may have helped write a script of how to beat Murray on clay, but Murray seemed hopeful that he could work out the kinks.
“I understand my clay court game needs to get better,” he said. “You need to have strong legs, they need to be able to last you four hours, so you are able to shift your balance when you're sliding on the clay, which you don't need to worry about so much on hard courts. I'll be working on that.”
"Working on that" is right. A loss to Monaco in the opening round of Rome is not something that breeds confidence.
Roman courts are the perfect stepping stone to Paris courts, both having damp climates and extremely slow play. Murray could get a false sense of security heading to Madrid, where the courts will play quite a bit faster because of elevation.
Faster courts are a reason why many speculate Nadal will drop the tournament, so as not to hinder his preparation for Paris. Should Djokovic not defend his title this week in Rome, Murray will assume the third spot ranking.
He could then assault the second spot should Federer falter in the early rounds of both upcoming tournaments. The ramifications could be huge should the No. 2 spot and potential No. 3 swap—picture Nadal and Federer battling it out in the semifinals.
Either way, Murray, despite the early loss, looks to be in a great striking position for an assault on tennis’ status quo.