There was anger from Andy Murray, but still not enough of the old strength to stop him from making his earliest exit from the US Open since his debut thirteen years ago.
The former world number one battled his lights out on the stadium where he won his first Grand Slam, but it was not enough to save him from a 7-5 2-6 6-4 6-4 defeat against 31st seed Fernando Verdasco.
Murray said later: ‘I went for a shower and he was having an ice bath. When I came out his coach and one of the Spanish doubles players were in there chatting.
“I asked the supervisor what he was doing, there are clear rules here. They weren’t in there for long. You have got to do better than that. This is one of the biggest events in the world and if there are rules you have got to stick to them.”
Verdasco said: “Obviously if Andy says that, I don’t want to say that he lies, but I didn’t talk one word with my coach or any one member of my team. I know exactly the rule and I don’t want to be the one breaking it.”
With tournament organisers apparently unable to shed any light on what happened, it was a case of one man’s word against the other – and Murray was determined to make sure it was he who had the last one.
Of the match Murray said: “It’s still quite early in the process. Some of the tennis I played today was the best since my surgery. I feel I should have won the first set, there were too many ups and downs. When my back was against the wall at the end I came up with some good tennis.”
Weak officialdom would not surprise anyone in tennis, but it is not the reason the 31 year-old Scot went down. He perished because he is not yet ready to overcome the challenge of a player of this caliber.
Murray played a poor game at 3-3 in the fourth, and although he fought in an epic fashion in the final game, putting Verdasco through agonies for its 12-minute duration, he could not pull back level.
There were nonetheless plenty of encouraging signs, not least of which was the way he kept going on a hard court for three hours and 23 minutes in intense heat and humidity. There will be better things to come.
This was always going to be a useful gauge of where Murray is at, given that he had accumulated a 13-1 record over the Spanish southpaw over a long period.
Verdasco’s aggressive style comes with its undulations, and Murray has usually been able to take advantage, particularly when it has come to the main pressure points in a match.
While Murray sometimes looks like he is walking between points with a pebble in his shoe, there is clearly some of his old belief and focus lacking. It may be a preoccupation with how his body is feeling, with the possible doubt in his mind springing from the knowledge that he is not currently able to put in the preparatory hours that he used to.
The second serve is landing in a little shorter, offering a launch pad for a powerful opponent. The return, however, remains a strength and he frequently profited from standing well inside the baseline to intimidate Verdasco.
Murray can certainly still move and play some sumptuous points when he needs to, and there was a reminder of that as early as the fourth game when he came out on top of a sapping 26-shot rally.
The first three sets were, contrary to their history, a story of Verdasco just about edging it on the bigger points. An example was the set point Murray had at 5-4, which was met with a swinging ace that hit the line.
After a quality second set you would not have expected Murray in his pomp to badly dip at the start of the second, going 4-1 behind. A rearguard action was mounted but it was another test that Verdasco’s nerve just about survived.
Moses is a freelance writer for Newslibre and Programs Associate at the Uganda Child Cancer Foundation. He loves writing about sports, politics and news around the globe and Inspiring new young people!!