Andy Murray has only two weeks to prepare for the challenge of the French Open and just six before he defends his Wimbledon title, and he is looking glum.
He cannot string together a decent run of matches, he is still no nearer to hiring a coach to replace Ivan Lendl and he has no idea when he steps on court whether he will play like a grand slam champion or like a plank. After yesterday's depressing and dismal performance against Santiago Giraldo, a qualifier from Colombia, at the Mutua Madrid Open - Murray lost 6-3, 6-2 in 70 minutes - he was frustrated with his efforts, or lack of them.
The man who dismantled Novak Djokovic in two grand slam finals and who flattened Roger Federer in the Olympic final had no clue how to deal with the world No.46. Giraldo knows his stuff on clay and reached the final of the recent Barcelona Open, but Murray offered no resistance. He did not seem to have a game plan; he did not respond when Giraldo started slapping winners around the court. Murray was poor from start to finish.
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"I expected a tough match for sure," Murray said, "[but] I didn't envisage the match finishing like that. You obviously go into each match believing you can win and looking for a positive outcome. To lose with that scoreline is disappointing. It's tough to take many positives from a match like that. He played very well from start to finish: didn't make many mistakes. I didn't make it hard enough for him in the second set. Towards the end, I didn't put enough pressure on him to force him to make errors. He dictated most the points and deserved to win."
That has been the way since Lendl handed in his notice as Murray's coach in March: there are days when he plays like his old self and there are days when he cannot do anything right. After nine years on the circuit, he has more than enough experience and knowledge to know how to pick his way through the draw of any tournament on any surface but Lendl's departure seems to have knocked the stuffing out of him.
"My coach is missing," Murray said. "That's quite a big part of my team. But, you know, even when I was working with Ivan, I didn't necessarily play my best tennis here last year or at certain periods. It's tough, because some days just now I'm playing well, and then the next day I'm not playing well at all. Sometimes in matches I'm playing really well for periods, and then other times not great at all. So I need to become more consistent.
"My best tennis, or my sort of base level, has to stay the same for a lot longer. It's not necessarily a case of going out there and practising loads of stuff on court. I need to be mentally stronger and mentally a bit more switched on for longer periods in matches. I'm not 100% sure what the problem is, but I need to sit down and think about that the next couple of days and see what I need to do."
The Italian Open is next up and search for a new coach goes on. However, unless he can find a character who can inspire him the way Lendl did, the next few weeks will be heavy going.