Andy Murray crashes out of the French Open in the first round as straight sets defeat by


Like two old rockers on a farewell tour, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka still managed to crank out a few of the hits on Philippe Chatrier last night – as well as rather too much of their more recent material.

But it was Wawrinka who was the evergreen Bruce Springsteen. Murray was more Bob Dylan: the poetry is still there but the voice is going.

The 39-year-old Swiss beat the 37-year-old Scot in the first round of the French Open.

If, as is almost certain, this is to be Murray’s last tango in Paris, it is appropriate it came against Wawrinka. They will be forever be linked as the two men who muscled in on the Big Three’s monopoly, sneaking three Grand Slams apiece. They shared a warm embrace after the match.

Murray produced some deft drop shots and precise volleys but, as has often been the case in the last couple of years, he simply looked overpowered.

Andy Murray's French Open swansong came to an early end after his defeat by Stan Wawrinka

Andy Murray’s French Open swansong came to an early end after his defeat by Stan Wawrinka

Murray departed after a straight sets loss at Roland Garros in what may be his last Paris tango

Murray departed after a straight sets loss at Roland Garros in what may be his last Paris tango

Wawrinka, trundling on with no thought of retirement, overpowered the veteran Scot

Wawrinka, trundling on with no thought of retirement, overpowered the veteran Scot

‘I’m disappointed,’ he said. ‘It was always going to be a tough match. Stan, over the years, has played brilliant tennis on that court. He gave me very few opportunities. I didn’t have extremely high expectations coming in but obviously I would have liked to have done better tonight.’

Early in the second set Murray was reaching for his back. It did not appear to be anything sinister; if every grimace and twinge Murray displayed on court was as bad as he made it look he would be in the grave by now, never mind retirement.

‘Physically tennis is not easy for me nowadays and clay has always been a surface that since the very beginning of my career I’ve had back issues on,’ he said.

‘But I felt pretty good going into the match tonight, considering, and it wasn’t much of a factor out there this evening, to be honest.’

Murray will contest the men’s doubles here alongside Dan Evans but this will surely be his final appearance in the singles. He has a runner-up finish to Djokovic in 2016 and four other semi-finals. Not up to the standard of his displays at the other three Grand Slams but better than any man from these Isles has managed since Fred Perry.

While Murray ponders when to hang up his racket, Wawrinka, trundles on with no thoughts of retirement. Built on generous, barrel-chested scale the Swiss has always been deceptively durable. 

Murray tried to force his opponent wide but Wawrinka's backhand remained a sight to behold

Murray tried to force his opponent wide but Wawrinka’s backhand remained a sight to behold

Murray was never able to gain a foothold in the match and the third set slipped away from him

Murray was never able to gain a foothold in the match and the third set slipped away from him

Wawrinka, like Murray, is a three-time grand slam winner and won the French Open in 2015

Wawrinka, like Murray, is a three-time grand slam winner and won the French Open in 2015

You don’t duke it out against Novak Djokovic in the 2015 final here for three hours and come out on top without having a fair bit of gas in the tank. Wawrinka will meet Cam Norrie in the next round, if the British No1 wins today.

Wawrinka said: ‘It was emotional, for sure. We’re getting closer to the end and we played so many times over the last 20 years, so many big battlen. He’s an amazing champion, amazing guy.’

As well as being linked by their battles with the tennis gods, Wawrinka was a key protagonist in both the nadir and zenith of Murray’s late-career hip odyssey.

It was on this court in the 2017 semi-final when Murray’s hip, nagging away at him for months, began to scream in a way that could no longer be ignored.

And it was against Wawrinka in Antwerp in 2019 when Murray won his only tour-level title since resurfacing surgery. Murray still leads the head to head 13-10 but Wawrinka has the edge on clay, six to one.

This 23rd meeting was one of the most one-sided. Wawrinka called it his best performance of the year and he certainly did not look like a man who had only two tour-level wins before last night. 

The two experienced old warriors, both greats of the modern game, had a combined age of 76

The two experienced old warriors, both greats of the modern game, had a combined age of 76

Murray is entered into Surbiton, suggesting he had not expected to be in Paris for very long

Murray is entered into Surbiton, suggesting he had not expected to be in Paris for very long

He doesn’t move as quickly around the court as he used to – Murray got most of his success from pushing him wide or dropping it short – but land it within the big man’s strike zone and he can still hit the bejesus out of a tennis ball.

His backhand especially – when he fully opens those powerful shoulders – is a sight to behold and he smote one down the line for a winner on match point.

These two have contested some classic matches. The 2016 and 2017 semi-finals here, with a win apiece; a five-set epic win for Murray at Wimbledon in 2009 – the first full match to be played under the Centre Court roof. I can still hear the roar of the crowd reverberating off the gleaming roof as that match reached its climax.

The deathly hush in this arena as Murray toiled in the third set could not have been more different.

Murray – metal hip and all – could still be able to use his wits to do some damage on the grass courts of Wimbledon next month.

But in the muscular, attritional world of clay court tennis, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.



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