Andy Murray admits he may have to accept his days of competing in the latter stages of grand slams could well be over.
The 36-year-old former world number one bowed out of the US Open after a dispiriting second-round defeat to his old rival Grigor Dimitrov.
In the 12th meeting between two veterans of the sport, and seven years after their last one, 19th seed Dimitrov registered only his fourth win over the Scot.
Murray wilted inside the Arthur Ashe Stadium, the court upon which he won his first grand slam title in 2012, as he slipped to a 6-3 6-4 6-1 defeat.
— LTA (@the_LTA) August 31, 2023
“I mean, it’s obviously disappointing to not play how you would like, you know?” said Murray, who has not made it past the third round of a major event since 2017.
“But maybe I need to accept that, these events, I had the deep runs and everything that I felt like I’m capable of, they might not be there, as well.
“So, you know, I’m aware what I’m doing, it’s unbelievably challenging to play at the highest level as I am now. And some days it’s harder than others.
“But yeah, today is obviously a really disappointing defeat and probably the manner of it as well. I mean, I fought hard enough, but just didn’t play well enough.
“You know, ultimately these are the events that you want to play your best tennis in and create more great moments, and I didn’t do that this year.”
It's always good to have Andy Murray at the #USOpen
See you again, soon! pic.twitter.com/a2bvRRdpzN
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) August 31, 2023
A ding-dong of a first set, including two brutal 15-minute games, was poised at 3-3 with almost an hour played and the match was shaping up to be another Murray marathon.
Murray had lost eight points in a row to slip behind but hit back after an astonishing get from a man with a metal hip, retrieving a net cord by deftly angling the ball away from Dimitrov.
He continued his run past the net post and into Dimitrov’s side of the court, where the Bulgarian clapped his opponent before both tapped rackets.
That was where the niceties ended, though, and Murray’s hopes quickly went south.
Oh Andy.. Behave! 😮
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) August 31, 2023
He came up with an absolute stinker of a service game, two double-faults and two unforced errors gifting Dimitrov the set and the momentum.
Murray was broken again at the start of the second and his shoulders slumped even further when his solitary chance to break back drifted wide.
The constant chuntering to his team was getting less and less cordial and, at 4-1 down in the third, he gestured to them that the match was over as a contest.
The two-time Wimbledon champion was proved to be right two games later as another attempt to challenge at a grand slam fell well short.