It’s somewhat ironic that Andy Murray went with fluorescent green as his color of shirt this week.
Because his game was anything but glowing Thursday in the Dubai Championships quarterfinals. The No. 3 seed fell ignominiously to one of the game’s rising stars, Borna Coric, 6-1, 6-3 in a hasty 1 hour, 19 minutes.
And so the turbulent existence of Murray trudges on. Just last month, he played miraculous ball in reaching the Australian Open final until falling into the clutches -- once again -- of world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. But by all accounts that was nothing short of an auspicious run, considering the Scot had failed to win a single title of any sort until after the US Open in 2014.
— borna coric (@borna_coric) February 26, 2015
For the past year, Murray had stockpiled as much publicity for his wavering entourage -- including the hiring of Amelie Mauresmo and his caustic split with longtime hitting partner Dani Vallverdu, who became dismayed by Murray’s decision to annex Mauresmo -- as he had for his results on the tennis court.
But by now we know the pendulum of emotion that has followed Murray for years is common enough that it’s almost an afterthought. And granted, Dubai isn’t a Slam, nor is it Indian Wells or Miami -- the first two prestigious Masters 1000 events on the calendar next month. But losses like the one Murray suffered Thursday, in which he successfully returned only two of 18 first serves from Coric -- this from one of the better returners in the game -- only reinforced the Scot’s vulnerability factor.
This showing came a week after Murray lost to Gilles Simon in another snappy straight-setter in Rotterdam.
“[Coric] played very solid and he moved well,” Murray told the press afterward. “I made way too many mistakes from the beginning of the match right through to the end, early in rallies, rushing points."
Coric is just 18 years old and, amazingly, made the main draw as a lucky loser, but he played the role of a honed veteran against Murray, winning nearly 90 percent of his first serves and breaking his opponent four times.
Coric is the latest in the successful lineage of Croatian talents and arguably one of the most touted. Just a year ago, Coric, who according to the ATP World Tour became the youngest semifinalist in Dubai since Rafael Nadal in 2006, beat that very same Spaniard in the Swiss Indoors Basel quarterfinals. And though Coric hadn’t won consecutive matches in 2015 until Dubai, he has the makeup, as was evident against Murray.
“[It’s] one of the biggest wins, for sure,” Coric said. “I was just trying to maintain my level, stay in the rallies as long as I can, which I was doing really well. I was also running very well.”
Coric seemed genuinely humbled afterward, but make no mistake, the kid has game -- and he knows it. You might recall that earlier this year Coric audaciously earmarked himself as the best of his generation, telling the Times of India, “When I'm at my best I am more like Djokovic gamewise, when I'm not, I'm more like Murray."
What seemed like ill-timed grandeur at the time now has some teeth, apparently. But be warned, kid, your momentum could hit a roadblock, considering a certain 17-time Grand Slam winner is up next in the semifinals. Roger Federer spent only 20 minutes on the court Thursday before Richard Gasquet retired down 6-1 with lower back pain, easing the Swiss star into the semifinals.
The pre-eminent superstar of this generation versus the self-proclaimed bigwig of the next. This promises to be nearly as incandescent as Murray’s shirt.