Murray far from championship form


NEW YORK -- What happens when your wildest dreams come true?

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin spent fewer than three hours walking on the moon, but it required a difficult decade to fully process that watershed moment.

Be (very) careful what you wish for.

J.D. Salinger, a child of this very city, wrote a coming-of-age masterpiece, "The Catcher in the Rye," and the flagrant fame it produced drove him completely out of the public view.

And what of Mo'ne Davis? Will playing point guard at UConn fill the void after recently becoming the most talked-about athlete in American sports?

After winning Wimbledon a year ago, the meager early returns suggest Andy Murray has encountered a similar wall.

On Monday, Murray was flailing around in Louis Armstrong Stadium -- a loose, sometimes loud venue he doesn't particularly like -- looking enormously unsettled in a 6-3, 7-6 (6), 1-6, 7-5 victory over Robin Haase.

The match required 3 hours, 8 minutes -- not the way you want to ease into the fourth and final major of the season.

Clearly, Murray was uncomfortable, berating himself on numerous occasions, clutching at various parts of his cramping body and looking anything like the champion he was here only two years ago. There were times when he seemed to be channeling his slumping, woe-is-me body language circa, say, 2010.

Murray said he had never felt that bad on a tennis court -- after going 90 minutes without any problems.

"It was unexpected, and that made it difficult mentally to deal with," Murray said. "But, yeah, I'm happy to get through. I could have very easily lost that match."

The Scot was the first British man to win the title at the All England Club in 77 years, but he hasn't been to a final since. How do you get up and go to work after achieving that kind of history? Brother Jamie Murray has been to three this year alone -- albeit in doubles -- and won the championship in Munich with partner John Peers.

Murray shut it down in September 2013 after a Davis Cup tie and underwent surgery on his chronically balky back. The general consensus has been that the aftershocks of that procedure are the primary reason the 27-year-old is struggling to regain the spectacular form that brought him an Olympic gold medal and the Grand Slam singles titles at the 2012 US Open and last year at Wimbledon.

"I'm not so sure it's the back," said Ivan Lendl, shaking his head last week in New Haven. "Winning Wimbledon, how do you top that?"

Lendl, the force behind Murray's breakthrough, told the player in March over dinner in Miami that he could no longer give him the coaching time he needed. It was a combination of things, Lendl said -- wanting, among other things, to spend more time with his 16-year-old daughter and 79-year-old mother -- but there was also the factor of trying to match a moment that can never truly be matched.

"That's going to be difficult, honestly," Lendl said.

For both the coach and the player. So Lendl is off the hook, playing a lot of golf (and a lot less senior tennis), studying men's tennis statistics daily for the formula that predicts success and generally loving life. Murray? Not so much.

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