Another Early Exit for Andy Murray

Last night, disaster befell Andy Murray again.  The only good thing you can say about his straight-set loss to 92nd-ranked Guillermo Garcia-Lopez is that it wasn’t quite the embarrassment of his losses to Donald Young and Alex Bogomolov one year ago.  Once again, it raises questions about whether Murray really belongs in the conversation with the rest of the big four.  After all, except for the odd disappointment from semi-injured Rafa, the other three guys aren’t losing in any first or second rounds.

Federer hasn’t lost to anyone outside the top 50 since Indian Wells in 2008, and that was to a comeback-trail Mardy Fish.  Nadal has been perfect against the top 50 since his own (probably injured) loss to Gigi in 2010–before that, you have to go back to Queen’s Club 2007.  Djokovic’s undefeated streak against the top 50 goes back to Queen’s Club 2010.

While it’s disappointing that Murray followed up such an impressive performance in Dubai with such a dud, let’s consider this in context.  Even counting Indian Wells last year, yesterday’s match was only Murray’s fifth loss to a player outside the top 20 (and third outside the top 50) since the beginning of 2011.  (He also lost to Thomaz Bellucci in Madrid and Kevin Anderson in Canada.)  Sure, this is the rung below Rafa/Roger/Novak, but the current level of top three-or-four dominance has raised the bar beyond any realistic expectations.

And perhaps most importantly, do these early exits really matter?  In the locker room, maybe, but what about in the rankings?  Murray trails Federer by 1,260 points.  If Andy had reached the semis in both Indian Wells and Miami last year (and remember, simply playing up to one’s seed can’t reasonably be expected), he would have 670 more points, barely cutting that lead in half.  Count the early exit at the Canada Masters as well and assume that he reached the semifinal there as well–still only 1005 additional points, and not enough to catch Federer.  (Though he would’ve held the #3 ranking before Fed’s win in Dubai.)

These counterfactuals are reminders that, given the current level of competition, it’s the big matches that really matter.  Winning a grand slam semifinal is worth almost as much as reaching the semis of two Masters events.  If Murray is to displace one of the top three, he’s much more likely to do so by winning a slam (or at least reaching more finals) than by simply playing up to his seed everywhere else.

5 thoughts on “Another Early Exit for Andy Murray”

  1. It would be interesting to compile some sort of list of upsets. Of course, you’d have to define what qualifies as an upset. But perhaps with such a list available for easy reference, we would gain a little more context about losses such as Murray’s to Garcia Lopez. As for Garcia Lopez, he may be the 12th best Spaniard today, with a ranking of 92. But he was 33 just a couple of years ago, and let’s face it – any Spaniard is increasingly hard to beat. It’s as if they have all realised that what Nadal and Ferrer can do, they can as well.

    1. I’ll try to post a list of upsets sometime soon. What I’ve done in the past is take my pre-match predictions (e.g., I had Murray at 80.7%) and rank matches that way. (Even if I didn’t publish predictions, I can generate predictions based on pre-match rankings, etc.) FWIW, I had GGL just outside the top 50, probably because in my system, his win over Nadal is still on the books.

      Now that I think about it, here’s a list of upsets from the first several months of 2011:

  2. Garcia-Lopez was actually 23 (WR) just about a year ago, and he beat Nadal in Thailand, 2010. I’ve only seen the brief highlights (of this match), and that didn’t really tell me much about the defeat for Murray. Just a brief look at the stats told me all I wanted to know though, Murray’s first serve % was sub-50%, and Garcia-Lopez was clutch once again, saving all seven break-points on his serve. If I remember correctly, he saved upwards of 20 BP’s against Nadal in Bangkok. It’s quite bizarre that he does this against the very best, and then falters against lesser opposition.

    Let’s see how Ryan Harrison does against him.

  3. Hello, I’m a big fan, what a great job you do!!!

    Here is my question:

    I’m not an expert at all, but if you look at the ATP points, winning a semi final of a Grand Slam is worth at least 1200 points, and losing it is worth 720 Points. Now in the other hand, reaching semis in two Masters 1000 is worth 360 each.

    Therefore, reaching the semis at a Grand Slam is exactly the same than reaching the semis at two Masters 1000. So I don’t see your point…

    Can you please explain me?

    I repeat, I’m just learning how this stuff works.



    1. Thanks.

      I was trying to make the point that *winning* a semifinal for Murray (for instance, the Australian Open match he almost won in January) is worth a lot, compared to winning several matches just to reach a Masters semi. In other words, the points at stake in one very important match outnumber the points at stake in his first four matches at Indian Wells. Hope that helps.

Comments are closed.