Andy Murray was dumped out of the US Open emphatically by one of the brightest sparks in men’s tennis, with Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime brutally dismantling one of the all-time greats.
Murray, the three-time Grand Slam champion from Dunblane, looked off the pace – understandable after playing for four hours and 40 minutes in his first five-set match since undergoing a hip resurfacing operation – but make no mistake, this was as clean a performance as it comes from one of the most exciting prospects in the tennis sphere.
An 11-year-old Auger-Aliassime watched Murray play on this very court nine years ago as Murray swept Feliciano Lopez aside in straight sets. Under the Arthur Ashe lights on Thursday night, it was Auger-Aliassime’s turn to dish out a thumping defeat.
The 6-2 6-3 6-4 win in two hours and nine minutes will serve as a reminder of how far Murray has to go to get back to the very top of the sport he once dominated. Even at this relatively early stage in his latest comeback, he won’t accept the manner in which he was ripped to shreds by the 20-year-old.
Another Brit could be Auger-Aliassime’s next opponent, should Dan Evans beat Corentin Moutet when their rain-delayed match continues on Friday. If he operates at this level again, it’s hard to see the British No. 1 standing a chance.
Indeed, Murray and Evans’ compatriot and former world No. 4 Greg Rusedski thinks few will be able to compete, saying: ‘If he can continue this sort of tennis for the rest of the tournament he could win it.’
That may be premature but the world No. 21 has been tipped for stardom from a young age for good reason. Having never been beyond the third round of a major before, this could prove to be the fortnight where he announces himself on the global stage.
For Murray, the clay courts of Europe are calling. One suspects this defeat will only serve as further motivation for the hours that will inevitably be put in as he continues his pursuit of a return to the top.
There remain positives from this American hard court swing. A top-10 win over Alexander Zverev is not to be sniffed at at the best of times but considering Murray is running around with a metal hip, it’s all the more extraordinary.
Auger-Aliassime possesses plenty of firepower and he put it to good use early on as he broke in the second game of the match, dictating points with his booming serve and weighty groundstrokes.
His second break of the match, in the eighth game of the set, was sealed with his 18th winner of the set. He sent a booming return past the former world No. 1 to further assert his dominance. Murray, by contrast, hit just one winner in the opener.
There were signs of improvement in the second set for the two-time Wimbledon champion. He was more resolute on serve and more imposing in rallies, but he was still making little headway with his returns.
But in the eighth game of the second set, he cracked. A backhand into the net left Murray remonstrating loudly with himself and Auger-Aliassime followed it up with some more ruthless serving to move 2-0 up.
By the fourth game of the third set, Auger-Aliassime had reeled off his 40th winner, Murray was stuck on six.
A game later, Murray saved three break points – the second with an all too rare backhand arrow down the line – but surrendered the fourth with a meek backhand into the net. It proved to be the final nail in the coffin.
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