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.
Him losing 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.
Andy Murray crashed out of the Australian Open at the second round with a straights set defeat to Japan’s Taro Daniel
Daniel reached the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time via his 6-4 6-4 6-4 victory over the former world No 1
Murray only managed to break the world No 120 just twice throughout the encounter – but missed lots of chances to break
The twice Wimbleton champion looked to have suffered a mental and physical letdown after his stirring first round win over 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili. 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 official listing of 120 in the world, but Murray has never lost to someone that low before in a Major.
Asked whether 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.‘
Murray has already helped improve his ranking situation this year, and is at a higher level than his current number 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.
Japanese qualifier Daniel (left) is the lowest ranked player to ever beat former world No 1 Murray at a Grand Slam tournament
The cold fact is that, since his return to action at Queen’s last summer, he has relied on wildcard entries to get him in to fourteen out of the sixteen tournaments he has played.
His sights are higher than that: ‚I want to perform well in the big events. For me, tonight is not good enough in that respect,‘ he said.
‚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, 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 for me.‘
Some consolation is that he is going through technical changes, using a bigger racket head.
Daniel, who has now reached round three of a grand slam for the first time ever, looked more mobile than Murray on Thursday
‚I have recently changed rackets. It’s not an excuse for losing today, but I also have to factor that into maybe my performances for a couple of months,‘ he said.
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 a highly optimistic scenario that non-symptomatic players will risk ruling themselves out mid-tournament without their status being independently checked.
‚I guess the responsibility is upon the players to be testing themselves. And, yeah, some will do that and some won’t unfortunately,‘ said Murray.
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.
Murray broke Daniel in the all-important third set but was broken back straight away in his final chance to get into the match
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.
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 the number 29 seed, Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia, but went out 7-6, 6-4.
Meanwhile, Tennis Australia supremo Craig Tiley surfaced on Thursday to say that he had no intention of resigning over the Novak Djokovic affair, but he offered no explanations for his part in what went on in the tournament build-up.
Sportsmail’s SAM BLITZ was on the live blog for coverage or Andy Murray vs Taro Daniel…