Lack of focus dragging me down, admits beaten Murray
Andy Murray's dismal start to the 2017 season continued yesterday as he crashed out of the Madrid Open in straight sets to 20-year-old Borna Coric.
The World No.1 had been thrashed by Coric once before this season - when he fell to a shock 6-1 6-3 defeat at February's Dubai Championships - and this match proved as surprisingly one-sided. Murray lost 6-3 6-3 in less than an hour and a half, exiting at the third round stage for the first time in three years.
The Scot enjoyed a superb clay-court season last year as he reached the final in Madrid and won his first Italian Open title, but he will now head to Rome to defend his crown having experienced his worst start to a season since 2008.
After a third-round exit at the Monte-Carlo Masters and a disappointing loss to Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals of the ATP 500 Barcelona Open, Murray was in desperate need of a good performance against Coric. But he made a slow start against the World No.59 and never recovered.
Coric broke early, targeting Murray's faltering forehand and moving into a 3-2 lead in the opening set.
Nerves then seemed to get the better of the young Croat who made two forehand errors to allow Murray to immediately break back, but the three-time Grand Slam champion made unforced error after unforced error to hand the initiative to Coric.
Serving to stay in the set, Murray slipped to 40-0 and despite defending two set points, went on to lose the opening set 6-3.
Rattled, he was immediately broken in the second to fall 2-0 down. He began to battle back and even held two break points of his own at one stage, but failed to take them.
Coric broke again in the eighth game of the second set and won the match with a sublime drop shot which Murray flicked helplessly wide of the line.
After the match, Murray conceded that his poor form was "disappointing" although denied it was because of a lack of confidence.
"There were a lot of things that weren't particularly good today," he said.
"I made a lot of unforced errors and I also didn't find anyway to make it a more competitive match, so that's the most disappointing thing for me.
"You can lose matches sometimes, but the manner of today's loss was disappointing.
"I didn't feel that was down to confidence - I just wasn't focusing as well as I needed to on each point.
"Things can change fast but you need to find exactly what it is that is going wrong and how you're going to fix that and commit to it. And if I do that, I'm sure I can turn it round."
Coric, meanwhile, expressed his disbelief at beating the World No.1 in straight sets for a second time this season.
"It feels great, I don't know how I did it but I played perfect during the game and I'm very happy about it," Coric said.
"I couldn't imagine this when I woke up this morning, I always believed but I wasn't sure how I was going to play, but in the end I played as I had dreamed."
At 4-4 from his last eight matches, Murray will be concerned with his clay-court form ahead of the French Open, which he reached the final of for the first time last season.
The Scot has also suffered from an elbow injury as well as a bout of shingles since climbing to the top of the ATP rankings, with his World No.1 ranking now looking in increasing jeopardy.