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Andy Murray admits to ‘not playing good tennis’ after Italian Open exit

The Guardian logo The Guardian 17-05-2017 Kevin Mitchell in Rome
Andy Murray in action during his straight sets defeat to Fabio Fognini, at the Italian Open. © AP Andy Murray in action during his straight sets defeat to Fabio Fognini, at the Italian Open.

Andy Murray, the defending Italian Open champion, suffered another worrying defeat when he failed to tame the inspired hitting of Fabio Fognini, who rose to the raucous urgings of his Italian fans in the magnificent Campo Centrale on a deceptively mild Tuesday evening.

Whatever the power and placement of Fognini’s groundstrokes for the hour and 33 minutes it took him to win 6-2, 6-4, Murray realises his hopes of retaining his Wimbledon title and his world No1 ranking depend now on a lot of hard work with Ivan Lendl, who arrives on Sunday to prepare him for the French Open, which begins at the end of the month.

However, Murray described as “total nonsense” recent descriptions of Lendl’s intervention as akin to a white knight riding to his rescue – although the coach does have a simultaneously calming and uplifting influence on his demeanour. “He was [always] going to fly in to London and we were going to travel to Paris together either on the Monday or the Tuesday,” said Murray. “And then, depending on how I get on in Paris - hopefully it goes well - he will be there for the majority of the grass court season. If it goes badly, then maybe he goes home after the French for a bit.

“I’m just not playing good tennis and I need to try and work out how to turn that around. I believe I will. And I need ideally to do it quickly, because there are some pretty important tournaments coming up.”

Murray, who was generally in good spirits, bristled when it was suggested his ranking might be affecting his game - “I personally don’t think it has anything to do with it, but I get asked about it every week.” He did admit he was not moving well the past couple of weeks and owned up to one shocking refusal of chasing a drop shot, yet, despite the gathering woe, Murray is confident he can do well in Paris and London.

“I know a lot of people think I have got no chance of doing anything at the French after the last couple of weeks, but I do think I can,” he insisted. “It’s certainly not going to be easy. I’m going to have to work hard these next 10 days, then really work my way into the tournament.”

Five of Murray’s unexpected losses this year have been against players with a combined ranking of 291: world No50 Mischa Zverev in the fourth round of the Australian Open, Vasek Pospisil (129) in his first match at Indian Wells, his second match in Monte Carlo, against Albert Ramos-Vinolas (24), Borna Coric (59) in the third round in Madrid last week, and now world No29 Fognini. It was his first win over a world No1.

While it is fair to say they could have lined up Murray, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic at the other end and the august trio would have had trouble hunting down some of Fognini’s belting forehands, the Scot has invariably found a way to get back in the fight when cornered. Not this time.

As Murray said: “He was taking the ball early, hitting the ball close to the lines and dominating most of the points. The only chance I really got was when he was making errors.”

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