Murray out, Nadal survives
WIMBLEDON champion Andy Murray warned of "bumps along the road" during his comeback from injury, and his words proved prophetic as he began the new year with a stunning second-round loss in the Qatar Open on Wednesday.
Murray led by a set and 3-0 and yet lost 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 to Florian Mayer, the world No. 40 from Germany, who seemed more surprised than anyone at how the contest turned around.
It was only Murray's second match on the tour after a back operation and a four-month absence. But, for about an hour, his lack of match practice had hardly seemed a problem as he took charge.
Then Mayer attacked more, Murray tired, and everything changed.
"To be honest, in my mind, the match was finished," said Mayer. "I don't know how I came back. I played fantastic tennis. In the third set, maybe he was injured, but I played well."
Murray, however, admitted to no injuries during the 1hr 51min encounter.
"I am stiff and sore, but that's to be expected," he claimed. "I didn't have high expectations because I have not had many matches. I was playing well and moving well at the beginning."
However, the loss of court time in preparation for the Australian Open, which starts in little more than two weeks, may prove to be the most significant aspect of the setback for Murray.
There were early-season uncertainties elsewhere too, as David Ferrer, the second-seeded Spaniard, his compatriot - Fernando Verdasco, the eighth seed - and Philipp Kohlschreiber, the sixth-seeded German, all lost.
That trio were beaten by Daniel Brands of Germany, Victor Hanescu of Romania and Peter Gojowczyk of Germany respectively.
For a while, it seemed the biggest upset of all was possible, with world No. 1 Rafael Nadal taken to three sets against another German, Tobias Kamke.
The qualifier played well before going down 6-3, 6-7(3-7), 6-3 against the legendary Spaniard.
"He took risks and played very well," said Nadal on Wednesday. "But I had a lot of chances with my return and hope to make a few more tomorrow."