Andy Murray in action in his doubles match
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
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Having battled so many injuries in recent years, Andy Murray’s body let him down yet again on Sunday when a thigh strain forced him to withdraw from his Olympics first-round singles match just hours before he was due to go on court, ending his quest for a third successive men’s singles gold.
Murray had shown no signs of injury when teaming up with Joe Salisbury to secure a brilliant men’s doubles first-round victory over five-time Grand Slam doubles winners Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut on the opening day of tennis action in Tokyo less than 24 hours earlier.
However, hours before he was due to begin his singles campaign against Felix Auger-Aliassime, who knocked him out of the second round at last year’s US Open, the double reigning Olympic champion revealed he had been advised not to stretch himself over both events, and instead concentrate solely on his doubles campaign.
“I am really disappointed at having to withdraw but the medical staff have advised me against playing in both events,” said Murray. “I have made the difficult decision to withdraw from the singles and focus on playing doubles with Joe.”
Murray was instead replaced by Australia’s Max Purcell, who claimed a surprise 6-4, 7-6 victory.
Murray had this week said making the Olympic podium would represent the “best achievement” of his career after his various battles with injury over the past three years.
He admitted that his Wimbledon experience, where he was convincingly beaten in the third round by Denis Shapovalov, had prompted questions and doubts in his own mind over whether to continue striving to compete at the highest level.
“I was very disappointed,” he said. “With each major tournament that passes … when I’m getting asked questions, a lot of it is always about my future. And also, when I haven’t performed as well as I’d like to, you question things, doubt yourself a little bit.
“When I got home the day after my match, my daughter said to me, ‘Daddy you’re home because you lost another tennis match’. I said to her, ‘Yes I did, but what do you do when you lose at something?’
“And she said, ‘You try and try again’. And I was like, ‘Yes, that’s what I want to do’. I want to keep playing because I enjoy it. I still think I can play at a high level.”
With his body continuing to prevent him from matching his expectations, this latest setback raises yet more questions about whether he can do so.
Despite Murray’s absence, Britain will continue to be represented in the men’s singles after Liam Broady emerged victorious from a gruelling first-round encounter with Argentina’s Francisco Cerundolo that lasted more than three hours.
Broady was only belatedly handed a spot at these Tokyo Games by the International Tennis Federation last week courtesy of his world ranking, but ensured his stay will not be brief with a 7-5, 6-7, 6-2 win in energy-sapping temperatures so high that organisers activated its extreme weather policy to allow longer breaks.
“It was brutal,” said Broady. “It’s probably one of the first three-set matches I’ve played that has gone over three hours and what conditions to do it in.
“I know he’s a tough opponent, but I suppose the only comfort you can take out there is that if you’re feeling bad, your opponent’s feeling just as bad. The third set comes down to a battle of wills and thankfully I won that today.”
On his late call-up to the Games, he said: “My main concern was not wanting to look at me and think I’m making up the numbers. I’m here to compete, I’m here to play and to win matches.
“I was just hoping I’d acclimatise to the time zone and the heat quick enough. You could be here for two months and you’re never going to feel comfortable in the heat out there. Thankfully I’ve acclimatised enough to give it a go.”
Broady will now face Polish seventh seed Hubert Hurkacz, the man who knocked Roger Federer out of Wimbledon.
There was a shock in the first round of the women’s singles when Australia’s world No 1 Ashleigh Barty was knocked out by Sara Sorribes Tormo, of Spain, in straight sets. “It just wasn’t my day,” said Barty.