Andy Murray’s 3hr 10min battle with Fabio Fognini became so heated on Tuesday that it spilled over into verbal confrontation. Murray warned Fognini to “shut up” and complained repeatedly to umpire Fergus Murphy before eventually going down to a 7-6, 2-6, 7-6 defeat.
Murray thus left the Shanghai Open in a state of high dudgeon. Not only had he wasted two opportunities to serve the match out – something he later suggested had never happened before in his career – but he also felt that Fognini had treated him disrespectfully on the court.
The initial flashpoint came at 5-5 in the third set, when Murray darted forward to the net and steered a straightforward volley into the open court for a winner. Fognini shouted as Murray struck the ball – perhaps in frustration – but Murray later suggested that the point should have been handed to him via the hindrance rule.
“I looked in the direction of where the noise came from,” Murray later explained. “He then told me, ‘Stop looking at me. What are you looking at me for?’ I was, like, ‘Well, I was just about to hit a shot and someone made a noise.’
“He told me to stop complaining, to have a sense of humour, that, ‘When you have a volley on top of the net, you know you’re not going to miss it.’ I was like, ‘I know I’m not going to miss it, but I wanted to know where the noise came from.’ It came from him, which you’re not allowed to do. It’s against the rules. It’s hindrance. I would say in that moment, neither of us were in a joking or laughing kind of mood.”
With regard to Murphy, who kept a low profile throughout the exchange, Murray explained “He [Murphy] wasn’t saying anything to him [Fognini], so I was just obviously frustrated with that. Fabio wanted to engage with me and I probably shouldn’t have done. But I’m not having him talk to me like that on the court.”
Murray stood two points from victory on a couple of occasions but couldn’t find the big serves when he needed them – a symptom, perhaps, of the fact that this was only the 12th match he has played since he had a metal ball-and-socket joint implanted in his right hip in January. This was always going to be a difficult match, for Fognini is the world No 12, a player who can conjure magical shots from almost any position. Their head-to-head record now stands at four wins apiece.
Murray left the court quickly after the most brief and chilly of handshakes. In the interview room, he emphasised that there were many areas of his game that he can improve – and added ominously that expects to be “in a better position next time I play against him.”
Earlier in the day, the Australian Open’s tournament director Craig Tiley had told a local radio station that “Andy will be here [in January].” This was hardly a surprise, however, given that Murray had spoken publicly about how “pumped” he will be to play in Melbourne only last month. Murray’s next on-court appointment is expected to come at the European Open in Antwerp next week.
Meanwhile, Dan Evans is guaranteed to become British No 1 on Monday following Cameron Norrie’s 6-3, 6-1 defeat at the hands of world No. 4 Daniil Medvedev in Shanghai. Evans is the world No 43.