Andy Murray's defence of the Aegon Championships lasted just two and a half hours on Wednesday as he was stunned 6-3, 6-7, 7-6 by the Frenchman Nicolas Mahut in the second round. With only a week and a half to go until Wimbledon, the defeat was a huge blow to his preparations and he looks distinctly under-done.
On the lush grass of Queen's Club, Murray slipped and stumbled as he suffered his earliest exit here since 2006, when he lost in the first round. Mahut is a fine grass-court player and reached the final here in 2007 but the defeat will be a sharp blow to Murray's confidence.
Murray had a couple of break points in the first game but despite slipping a number of times himself, Mahut looked the more comfortable and, after smashing a forehand winner to lead 4-2, he closed out the set with ease.
Best known in Britain for being one half of the world record match against John Isner at Wimbledon in 2010, Mahut's serve-volley game is perfectly suited to grass and he kept Murray on the back foot and too far behind the baseline. Ivan Lendl, Murray's coach, looked as uncomfortable as his charge.
Things looked up for Murray when he saved a break point in the first game of the second and then broke Mahut for the first time when the Frenchman double-faulted. But from 3-0 up, he let Mahut back in and the set reached a tie-break. For the first time, Murray began to look confident and a little bit of class at the end helped him take it 7-4.
When he broke serve in the opening game of the decider, Murray looked like he would pull away but he handed the break back immediately. The Scot could not take a break point at 2-2 and again the set headed to a tie-break. But as mistakes flowed from Murray, Mahut took control to win it 7-1 and leave Murray with plenty of questions to ponder.
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