Andy Murray’s difficult start to the 2017 season is unfortunate, but was not entirely unexpected

Carrying an elbow injury and looking short on confidence, Murray has endured a tough start to the new season. But his strong finish to 2016 meant setbacks were ultimately inevitable 

Andy Murray’s straight-sets loss to Borna Coric in last 16 of the Madrid Open this week was widely reported as a ‘shock’ defeat for the World No 1 – but for those who have been closely following his faltering start to 2017, the result felt more inevitable than it did surprising.

His straight-sets defeat to Coric, a 20-year-old Croat ranked 59th in the world, continued his miserable season on clay, after disappointing exits in the third round of the Monte-Carlo Mastersand the semi-finals of the ATP 500 Barcelona Open. Murray, who won the last five tournaments of the 2016 season in an incredible run to become World No 1, currently stands at a middling 4-4 from his last eight matches.

Speaking after his most recent defeat, even Murray himself admitted to feeling “concerned” with his struggle for form, with the French Open, the second Grand Slam of the season, beginning at the end of the month.

“I definitely think I need to be concerned about that defeat,” he acknowledged. “It’s not always the worst thing losing a match, but it’s sometimes the manner of how you lose the match which can be concerning or disappointing.”

On paper at least, these are testing times for Murray. There is a case to be made that this is his worst start to a season since 2008, while on Monday he will turn 30, traditionally the age at which players begin their gradual decline. And then there is his right elbow injury which he clearly still hasn’t recovered from, and which has severely hampered his serve – never the strongest facet of his game – in his most recent performances.

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