There is something about playing in the Southern California desert that gives Andy Murray fits.
He was upset in the third round of the Indian Wells Masters on Monday, losing 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 to 53rd-ranked Federico Delbonis of Argentina.
Murray was a losing finalist in 2009 and has reached the quarter-finals five times, but has twice lost in his opening match in recent years and is 25-11 in the event. He’s never been comfortable with the high bounces and quick-flying balls in the dry air.
He’s changed up his preparation over the years, arriving several days early to practice or coming in just before the tournament begins. He even has his rackets strung four or five pounds tighter just for Indian Wells.
None of it has worked.
“I have never really felt that I played my best tennis here,” he said. “I still feel like I can’t really go for my shots. I feel like when I do, I make mistakes long. I have tried many different things. I don’t know exactly why it is.”
Delbonis scored the biggest win of his career, outlasting the second-seeded Murray in a 2 hours, 46 minutes struggle. Three years ago, Delbonis defeated then-fifth-ranked Roger Federer in the semi-finals at Hamburg.
“With the crowd, it’s a little bit more pressure, but I’m enjoying that kind of match,” Delbonis said. “It’s like a challenge every time, and I’m happy to get it.”
The left-handed Argentine rallied from 4-1 down in the third set, winning three straight games to go level. He held serve to even it five games apiece and broke Murray in the next game to go 6-5 up. Murray broke back to force the tiebreak, but not without a fight by Delbonis, who trailed 15-40 and got to deuce before sending a backhand wide to let Murray even the set at 6-6.
“I just didn’t feel comfortable going for my serve,” said Murray, who had no aces and three double-faults. “I felt like every time I went for it I missed it. I didn’t have control on that shot at all.”
Murray led 3-2 in the tiebreak before Delbonis reeled off five straight points to close out the match, using his heavy topspin to change pace. Murray committed errors on the last three points, with his forehand landing wide on match point.
“I feel good on the surface because it’s not too fast,” Delbonis said. “I can slice in that kind of court. I like it. I like to play in that kind of court, in hard courts that are not so fast. For me it’s a good court to be aggressive.”
Murray was competing in his first tournament as a father. His wife, Kim, gave birth to daughter Sophia on February 7, a week after the Scotsman finished as the runner-up to Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open.
“It will be nice to get to Miami and see my family,” said Murray, who next plays in the Miami Masters tournament. “I do think I will play better tennis in Miami because I played some good stuff in the Davis Cup.”
Murray is the highest seed to lose so far in the desert event.
Also advancing was No 3 seed Stan Wawrinka, a 6-4, 7-6 winner over Andrey Kuznetsov; No 8 Richard Gasquet, a 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 winner over Alexandr Dolgopolov; and No 10 Marin Cilic, who beat Leonardo Mayer 6-4, 6-3. No 12 seed Milos Raonic moved on when 17th-seeded Bernard Tomic retired trailing 6-2, 3-0 because of a wrist injury.
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