Andy Murray will end the season without a major title after being eliminated from the 2014 U.S. Open by Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals.
SportsCenter noted the result that sent the tournament's 2012 champion packing:
What a match! Novak Djokovic advances to 8th consecutive #USOpen semifinal after defeating Andy Murray in 4 sets, 7-6, 6-7, 6-2, 6-4.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 4, 2014
It marks the first time since 2009 he didn't reach the final of at least one Grand Slam event. When you pair that with middling results at other events and a fading ranking, it's a season the Scottish star will gladly put behind him when it ends in a couple of months.
The biggest problem was the fact he never quite looked like the same player fans witnessed on a regular basis before undergoing back surgery last fall. He seemed to lose his rhythm during the time off and still hasn't returned to top form.
There was some optimism heading into the U.S. Open, though. After a busy stretch, there was finally some extended time for him to work with coach Amelie Mauresmo, and he talked about how his body was starting to feel better.
Courtney Nguyen of Sports Illustrated passed along his comments about how he was feeling during the U.S. Open Series.
Now it's for me about winning," Murray said. "I feel healthy. I've trained extremely hard to get ready for this period, harder than I had done since I came back from the surgery. Everything felt good. I'm not really having the aches and pains. Body feels good. I played well last week. I played a couple of good matches. I just messed up a few games and that cost me.
Although there were flashes of great play from Murray throughout the summer, he wasn't able to maintain that level of play for an extended period of time. As a result, he's heading home from New York without his second U.S. Open title.
How many major titles will Murray win in 2015?
Despite what amounts to a disappointing year at the majors by his recent standards, there's still reason for optimism heading toward 2015.
It's important to note he still had a good season; it just wasn't great, and that's what people have come to expect from him. He needs to win titles on the biggest stages.
Murray should get more matches under his belt in the coming months and will then get a chance to rest before starting to gear back up for the Australian Open. It's basically a chance to press the reset button ahead of the new season.
Since he appears confident the health issues are a thing of the past, he can focus more energy on his game than recovery.
By the time the Australian Open rolls around in January, Murray should be primed for a big year. He's made the final three times over the past five years at the season's first major. He lost all three of those championship matches, however.
Barring any setbacks, he should be one of the top contenders for the title to open next year's Grand Slam schedule. A win down under would quickly eliminate any lingering frustration left over from 2014.