Murray's loss a giant win for Spain
The wait continues for Andy Murray, the trendy pick to dominate Down Under, after his surprising five-set loss to Fernando Verdasco on Monday. But what was Murray's day of doom was Spain's gain.
Lessons from a luminary
Fernando Verdasco spent last December working in Las Vegas with Andre Agassi's former trainer Gil Reyes, whose services are available to adidas players as part of the company's player development program.
Verdasco has struck up something of a friendship with Agassi, whom he admired growing up. But work came first for the Spaniard during the offseason, as he related after his upset of Andy Murray at the Australian Open:
"The 24th of December, everybody was leaving Las Vegas because it was Christmas time. Agassi came to say hi to me, and I was speaking with him. I don't want to say what he told me, because that's secret, but really helped me so much.
I was speaking with him two hours before he left for the mountains. He was leaving with Steffi [Graf, Agassi's wife] to enjoy Christmas. He was going to ski.
I love to ski. I was there in the gym working hard, so I was a little bit jealous. But I was just thinking to be ready for the season and start good the year."
After Monday's loss, Murray drily noted that the issue had been laid to rest for the foreseeable future. "I don't know if I'll be the favorite for a Slam in the next year or so after today," he said.Even as debate raged over Murray's position in the pecking order, a complication developed: The Scot was hit by flu-like symptoms midweek and spent most of Friday in bed. Still, it did not seem to have affected him during his straight-sets win over Jurgen Melzer the next day, and he also insisted that it had not played a pivotal role in Monday's defeat to Verdasco. "It wasn't a physical thing, why I lost," said Murray. "Even after being sick for the last few days, I thought I still came through the match well." Even if it had made a difference, Murray seemed to suggest, he wouldn't want to say so. "If you're sick, there's some things you can't do as well as you might like," he admitted. "But, again, if I say that I'm sick and it affected me, I know it's going to be like, 'Well, he's making excuses for losing.' I don't feel that was the reason why I lost. I definitely did have my chances, and he played too well." Only Murray can really know whether there were any lingering effects from the illness. Even if the weakness was slight, it may have played a role in the turning point of the match. It came at 3-3 on Verdasco's serve, with Murray holding break point. A good serve from the Spaniard allowed him to take charge of the rally with his big forehand -- a common pattern during the match -- and he ran Murray from sideline to sideline in a 21-stroke exchange before putting away an overhead.
Kamakshi Tandon is a freelance tennis writer for ESPN.com.
2009 AUSTRALIAN OPEN
Women's singles: Serena Williams, United States
Rafael Nadal, Spain
Men's doubles: Bob and Mike Bryan, United States
Women's doubles: Serena and Venus Williams, United States
Mixed doubles: Sania Mirza and Mahesh Bhupathi, India
Official scoreboard: Scores
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