By Claire Stanley
Andy Murray’s Australian Open is over.
This article was about as easy to write as the match was to watch. That’s to say it wasn’t – not at all.
I’ve spent many of the hours since Murray crashed out of the AO in straight sets at the hands of qualifier, and world number 120, Taro Daniel reflecting on what happened and what might have been.
As ever, my unwavering belief in Andy fully expected him to win this match and storm into the third round. At the same time I am always very wary of qualifiers – they’ve had to come much further than many others to get to this stage of the main draw and are on a four match winning streak – in fact, Daniel is yet to drop a set from qualifying until now. He stormed onto the John Cain Arena, unfazed by the crowd or the legend of the game who stood in front of him and refused to be intimidated as he cemented his place in the round of 32.
All at the expense of one Andy Murray of course, who couldn’t seem to do anything right – okay, that’s maybe a slight exaggeration, but it’s not far off – to counter Daniel’s ferocious attack. The 28-year-old Japanese native is in the form of his life right now and Murray simply couldn’t get to grips with his game quick enough.
I have no desire to run through this play-by-play – I think I speak for most, if not all, Murray fans when I say this is a match I would rather not experience again in any form. But reflection is good for the soul and despite the crushing disappointment I feel that yet another Australian Open trophy has slipped from Andy’s grasp, I do feel I can look back on the past couple of weeks and feel positive going forward. Note I said the past couple of weeks – not specifically today – because we’ve seen some real Murray magic and I want more.
A great run in Sydney that lead to a final, and another brilliant win over Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili in round one of the AO isn’t to be dismissed. His body – which was the problem in a lot of his matches in 2020 and 2021 – is improving every day, his physicality is no longer an issue; Murray looks strong, he himself says he feels good and pulls up well even after long physical matches and he acknowledges that sometimes, like against Daniel, he just isn’t playing good enough tennis. That can change – he knows it, we know it – and the season has only just begun.
So be disappointed about today Andy fans – we are entitled to that – but this is just a dip in the Murraycoaster. The only way is up.