Will Andy Murray have the motivation to keep going after Australian Open elimination?

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We have been here before with Andy Murray, wondering if he will depart the Australian Open, never to return again.

So perhaps not too much should be read into his obvious despondency after what was, by ranking, his worst defeat at a Grand Slam.

His loss — 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 — to Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel meant that Dan Evans was the last British singles player left in the third round.

The twice Wimbledon champion looked to have suffered a mental and physical letdown after his stirring first round win over 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili.

Andy Murray crashed out of the Australian Open to Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel on Thursday

Andy Murray crashed out of the Australian Open to Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel on Thursday

Backing up the tantalising glimpses of the old Murray, the one who reached last weekend’s final in Sydney, is proving increasingly difficult.

So much so that he questioned whether he would have the motivation to keep going if there were too many repeats of this in 2022. The lightning-quick Daniel played well above his ranking of 120 in the world, but Murray has never lost to someone that low before in a major.

Asked if he would be back in Melbourne, he replied in the affirmative but added: ‘Not if I do what I did tonight too often this season.’

The Scot has already helped improve his ranking this year, and is at a higher level than his world No 113 suggests. He confounds expectations of someone playing with a metal hip.

Yet he is still only on the cusp of the top 100 and in need of wildcards to avoid going through the grinder of qualifying most weeks.

Since his return to action at Queen’s last summer, he has relied on wildcard entries to get him into 14 out of 16 tournaments.

It was the first time that Murray has lost to someone outside the top 100 at a Grand Slam

It was the first time that Murray has lost to someone outside the top 100 at a Grand Slam

The Scot admitted that only reaching the second round of majors is not of interest to him

The Scot admitted that only reaching the second round of majors is not of interest to him  

His sights are higher. ‘I want to perform well in the big events,’ said Murray. ‘Tonight was not good enough in that respect. 

‘Making second round of Slams is not something I find particularly motivating.

‘I want to be doing better than that. So it depends on how I get on this year results-wise and how I perform in the big events.

‘I’m really disappointed, very frustrated. I’m not sure I’ve lost a match to someone ranked outside 100 before in a Slam. So from that respect it’s not a great loss.’

Some consolation is that he is going through technical changes, using a bigger racket head.

‘I have recently changed rackets,’ he said. ‘It’s not an excuse for losing but I also have to factor that into my performances for a couple of months.’

Murray says he will look to return to the Australian Open only if he performs much better

Murray says he will look to return to the Australian Open only if he performs much better

He now plans to rest up before heading to the Middle East next month for ATP events. Before departing he contributed to the discussion about whether players in Melbourne can really be relied upon to self-test for Covid, with the suspicion that some will be skipping the procedure for fear of having to withdraw. 

It seems an optimistic scenario that non-symptomatic players will risk ruling themselves out mid-tournament without their status being independently checked.

‘I guess the responsibility is on the players to be testing themselves,’ said Murray. ‘Some will do that and some won’t unfortunately.’

Earlier, Evans had received a walkover into round three when his French opponent, Arthur Rinderknech, withdrew due to a wrist injury. Like last year in Melbourne there is one GB player left in the third round, with Evans taking over from Cam Norrie.

He now has the tough task of facing Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime, the world No 9 who has had a strong start to the season. Their only previous meeting was in the final of the warm-up event in Melbourne last year, when Evans won 6-2, 6-3.

Dan Evans is the only British player left and was given a walkthrough to the third round

Dan Evans is the only British player left and was given a walkthrough to the third round 

His solitary status in the singles is something of an early-season reality check for British tennis after the heady events of 2021.

The retirement of Jo Konta and long-term injury problems of Kyle Edmund are not helping matters.

Heather Watson was competitive against 29th seed Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia, but lost 7-6, 6-4.

Meanwhile, Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley surfaced to say that he won’t be resigning over the Novak Djokovic affair but he offered no explanation for his part in what went on in the tournament build-up.

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