In the biggest upset of the US Open 2010, No. 4 seed Andy Murray was stunned by No. 25 seed Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland in four sets, 7-6 (3), 6-7 (4), 3-6, 3-6.
The loss could have come in straight sets had the Swiss held to his early break in the first set, but instead Murray was able to make the match last a few minutes short of four hours.
In the first two matches of the US Open the talented Scot won without losing a set. At that point, it looked like it was his year to win the prestigious tournament in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
Shockingly it was déjà vu all over again, though. Murray lost in similar fashion at last year's US Open, this time to Marin Cilic, a lower ranking but much more talented player, in the fourth round.
From the beginning, once he was broken, Murray retreated to his defensive game. He must have believed that his defense was enough to defeat the likes of Wawrinka. He mistakenly took for granted the underdog, despite knowing that the Swiss had pushed him to a five-setter at the Wimbledon last year.
In fact, the Swiss had beaten the Scot three times in the past, including once on a faster hard court (2006 Miami). It was the 5-3 overall lead that must have caused Murray's overconfidence going into this match.
Crucially, the Swiss was surprising Murray with his beautiful one-handed backhand shots deep in both corners. Remember one-handed backhand shots are more difficult to anticipate when they are on fire, and they were in flames this afternoon.
One thing was certainly evident in the match: Once Wawrinka started taking it to the Scot, Murray forgot how to play aggressively. Murray suddenly forgot the ability that he showed at the Canada Masters, when he knocked out Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in consecutive matches.
After taking care of the first set, Murray was up a break early in the second set and seemed to have control of the match, leading until it was 5-3 in the second before losing his focus and the next game. This time Wawrinka prevailed in the tiebreak.
Wawrinka never backed down a minute, even when he was a set and a break down. The Swiss' guts and quality play got into Murray's head. Scot's increasing frustration was aggravated by his four foot faults in the match.
After the second set, Murray's mind appeared to be drifted elsewhere. He was not in the match. He was barely putting the ball back in, hoping Wawrinka to miss.
Federer must be right when he remarked once in an interview that Murray could not be a dominant player by simply employing a defensive strategy against talented and aggressive players.
In the fourth set, when the Scot was about to go down double break, he valiantly saved three break points to stay in the match.
However, the fourth set at the end resembled the third set, except that Murray had less chances to break back to get into the match.
Overall, Murray had not only dispirited and error-prone game but also poor serving. His first serve percentage merely made 50 percent mark. Besides, Wawrinka led both in winners and in having fewer unforced errors—43-58 and 43-48, respectively.
“He played better than me and that’s it,” Murray shamelessly accepted. “In the third and fourth sets, I was struggling physically. I tried to find a way to come back. I have not been in that position for a very long time. Maybe that had something to do with it.”
About the frustration, Murray said, "In the third and fourth sets I said, yeah, I was struggling physically and I got frustrated with that. But I haven't been in that position for a very long time. You know, maybe I felt like my chance of doing well here was slipping away. I've worked very hard to give myself a chance of winning tournaments. You know, when I was struggling physically, I got disappointed. But, I'm sorry, that happens."
Those excuses will not fly for this year. Murray was healthy, confident, and aggressive in the lead-up tournaments, with plenty of time to rest between.
Billed as the co-top favorite, along with Roger Federer, Murray has once again disappointed the United Kingdom and his fans around the world.
Both players had to call for trainers and underwent multiple therapeutic sessions. In fact, the Swiss appeared to have more serious injuries to take care of than the Scot. Murray cannot attribute his loss to injuries than to his dispirited play, underestimation of the opponent, and poor planning.
Now Murray cannot fire his mother Judy, who is part of his coaching team, after firing Miles Maclagan. He is not Federer, who could play at the top of his game without a coach and still produce the best results out there. He is likely to employ a high-profile coach sooner than previously expected.
All credit goes to Wawarinka, who was once a top-tenner—he was patient and aggressive throughout the match. Thanks go to Wawrinka's coach Peter Lundgren, who once molded Federer into a winning mind. As a Davis Cup coach for UK, Lundgren must have known Murray's weaknesses, and that must have prepared the Swiss with the necessary strategies to go against the Scot.
Especially in the context—Murray was projected to win a Grand Slam for the third year in a row; after his US Open final debut in 2008, eight Slams have passed, and none came his way—this loss is surely a fodder for the doubters, undoubtedly prompting and strengthening their skeptical questions.
"Will Murray ever win a Grand Slam?"
"Is he a Slam material at all?"
Murray's response was: "I have no idea of whether I'll win a Grand Slam or not. You know, I want to. But, you know, I mean, if I never win one, then what? If I give a hundred percent, try my best, physically work as hard as I can, practice as much as I can, then that's all I can do, you know."
One may even wonder if it was an Álex Corretja curse. Corretja similarly finished runner-up twice in Grand Slams (French Open 1998 and 2001) and, like Murray, also reached a career-high No. 2 ranking.
On the bright side, Murray's exit eases the path of Nadal reaching the final. This means we will likely to get another Federer-Nadal final. That is yummy, simply because the year's last two Slams disappointed us by giving straight setters.