As the tennis world converged in Paris for the second grand slam tournament of the season at the end of last month, Andy Murray chose a different path. He is playing at the highest level of professional tennis with a metal right hip, after all, and so it is advisable for him to preserve his body when he can.
While his opponents performed, he trained, he built his form and he grew accustomed to the grass courts long before most others, and throughout Murray’s week in Stuttgart, his results reflected well on his preparation. But on Sunday afternoon, in his first grass court final since 2016, Murray’s tournament ended with some concern as he struggled with a left hip injury and he was beaten in the final by Matteo Berrettini 6-4, 5-7, 6-3.
“Sorry I couldn’t get over the line today but there has been a lot of progress the last few weeks,” Murray said. “I’m looking forward to what the future has to hold and feeling a lot better about my game. Hopefully my body can hold up a little while longer so I can keep playing matches like this.”
After reaching the final without dropping a set, an even greater challenge stood before Murray in last year’s Wimbledon finalist Berrettini, who is back from a three-month layoff after hand surgery. The Italian immediately imposed himself, eviscerating Murray’s second serve to secure an early break, then dominating with his enormous forehand and serve in the first set.
Throughout the second set, Murray maintained his serve but at 4-4, he faced three break points with the match hanging by a thread. Murray saved them all, he kept himself ahead on serve and then his sustained pressure on Berrettini finally yielded a breakthrough as Murray broke to love to force a third set.
As soon as Murray had taken the advantage, though, the match was effectively finished. After an error-strewn opening service game, Murray immediately called the trainer for a left hip issue. He was unable to serve at full pace, and then in the middle of his service game at 2-4 he underwent another medical timeout. Against one of the biggest servers in the world, a hobbled Murray fought but he was unable to make any further progress.
Murray is scheduled to compete at Queen’s in London, which begins on Monday and he is drawn against Lorenzo Sonego.
It is now clearly in doubt given Murray’s physical issues. Should he play, Murray, now back into the top 50 for the first time since 2018, would have a shot at being seeded at Wimbledon with a deep run on home soil.
Stuttgart remains an extremely positive breakthrough for Murray. Over the past year he has already demonstrated that he is still able to compete well against the top players, but he has often struggled to maintain a high level and he has struggled badly in the key points. He has not only played at a consistent, high level throughout his time in Germany, but those issues fell away.
The 35-year-old produced his best level when it mattered, winning three tiebreaks in addition to the gritty second set against Berrettini. He has shown that he has the ability to battle with the best players, particularly on this surface. But while a month off the tour evidently helped him to unlock a higher level, the heavy load on Murray’s body in his first week back evidently took its toll. The challenge for Murray, as ever, is remaining healthy in order to take advantage of the progress he continues to make.
Stuttgart Open tournament organisers are investigating Nick Kyrgios’s claims that he was racially abused by spectators during his semi-final loss to Murray on Saturday.
Kyrgios, who refused to play during the second set until the supervisor stepped in, lost 7-6(5) 6-2. He later revealed on Instagram that he had retaliated after hearing a racial slur.
“We stand for creating an inclusive environment for all players, staff members and visitors where discrimination of any kind is not tolerated. This attitude is lived by all people involved and responsible,” organisers said in a statement.
In s’-Hertogenbosch, the world No 205, Tim van Rijthoven, pulled off one of the most remarkable title runs in recent years by defeating the world No 2, Daniil Medvedev, 6-4, 6-1 to win his first ATP title as a wildcard on home soil.
The 25-year-old Dutchman’s title run included wins over Felix Auger Aliassime, ranked 9th, and No 14 Taylor Fritz, the second and third seeds. He had previously never played an ATP main draw match or even faced a top-40 player.
Dan Evans defeated Jordan Thompson to win the Rothesay Open Nottingham for the second time in three years.
The British No 2 dropped down to the second-tier Challenger Tour to begin his grass-court season and reaped the benefits by reclaiming the title he won in 2019.
Evans did not drop a set all week, finishing off his title run with a 6-4 6-4 victory against Thompson, who won the Challenger title in Surbiton last week.