Andy Murray suffered his third successive loss as he crashed out in the first round of the Shanghai Masters. Roman Safiullin needed just an hour and 39 minutes to breeze past three-time former champion 6-3 6-2. The Brit previously set his sights on having a strong end to the season but has so far only managed to win one match across the Asian swing.
Murray was hoping to end his time in China on a positive note after going 1-2 across his matches in Zhuhai and Beijing. He had another tough draw in Shanghai after getting Safiullin in the first round with the Russian coming in off the back of reaching his first tour final and cracking the top 50.
And he carried his momentum into the eighth Masters 1000 tournament of the year, breaking Murray in the first game. The Brit had four chances to get back on serve in the very next game but he couldn’t do it and the opening set started to fly by.
There was more frustration for Murray as he failed to put away a volley while serving at 2-4 down with the ball hitting the net cord and falling to his feet. Safiullin wrapped up a mostly impressive set, breaking the world No 40 for a second time to take it 6-3 in 46 minutes.
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Murray hit just four winners throughout the opener compared to 18 from the 26-year-old, struggling to know what to do with his opponent’s game. Safiullin started running away with it in the second, saving a break point before taking a 2-0 lead on the former world No 1 but Murray finally managed to convert one of his break points to get back on serve.
It didn’t last long as the Russian immediately regained his lead following an epic rally that saw him chase down a dropshot before he and Murray painted the lines with the ball, refusing to miss. The 36-year-old screamed in frustration as he ended the entertaining exchange by dumping the ball in the net, getting broken.
Murray was able to avoid going a double-break down at 1-4, saving another break point at the net. But he was in more trouble at 2-5 down, as this time Safiullin’s break point was a match point. There was drama when Murray challenged a winner when the Russian thought he won the match but the ball just caught the line, sending the Brit packing and allowing Safiullin to advance.
Murray is now expected to compete in the ATP 500 event in Tokyo which begins on October 16. And he will need to bounce back from his disappointing losses in China if he wants to fulfil his goal of finishing the year on a high.
“I’ve got an opportunity with these last five or six tournaments at the end of the year to have a strong finish, so that’s what I’m hoping for here,” he said before the Zhuhai Championships, where he won his opening match before suffering three losses on the bounce.
As for Safiullin, the world No 41 will now contest a rematch of the recent Chengdu final as he faces Alexander Zverev in the second round. The Russian led Zverev by a set and a break in Chengdu before falling in three sets and he’ll be bidding to get revenge over the ninth seed.