Andy Murray leaves Indian Wells after defeat to Andrey Rublev | Andy Murray

Andy Murray played at a high level for an extended period against one of the best players in the world, but was outclassed in crucial moments by fifth seed Andrey Rublev, who saved four set points before beating Murray 7-6 (3) , 6-1 in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open.

Indian Wells was often Murray’s bugbear, as the slow, high-bouncing pitches and gusty winds often left him vulnerable to early failures even at the peak of his career, but he showed he hit the ball well by reaching the second round with one clinical performance via David Goffin. A much more difficult task awaited Rublev.

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It was also an important occasion for the Russian as he was on the pitch for the first time since being eliminated from his semi-final match against Alexander Bublik in Dubai after shouting at a lines referee following a controversial call. Rublev came under fire for his first statement after the incident, which failed to adequately address his own behavior, but before his game he released a video with a lengthy apology for his actions.

In the opening period on Friday afternoon, Murray’s game went well. As he desperately tries to find form before the summer, the Scot has made a concerted effort to play more attacking tennis. He adds more speed to his shots, takes the ball earlier and takes more risks.

He served at a high level, controlled his serves confidently and put Rublev under pressure with his own serve. He also moved extremely well in the set: at 4-4, 30-30, he darted from side to side before placing a precise, angled backhand pass past Rublev en route to a strong hold. Murray then put himself in the perfect position to win the set, generating four set points on his opponent’s serve at 5-4.

But he couldn’t complete it. Aside from a missed second serve return from Murray, Rublev saved set points with a series of big forehand and serve winners and took heart from the escape. However, by the tiebreak the Russian had gained full control of the baseline.

As Murray retreated further and further behind the baseline, his level deteriorated while his opponent’s vicious shots were in full swing. Rublev dominated the tiebreak, maintained his momentum in the second set and finished the game confidently.

Murray may have stressed that it is unlikely that his career will last beyond this summer, but as he continues to travel the world and leave no stone unturned to improve his form, it still seems as though the more unlikely will find him motivated scenario; that despite his poor start to the season, he will eventually reach a level of performance that would justify continuing to take part in the tour. He did quite well against one of the best players in the world, but another defeat will be no consolation.

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Meanwhile, Angelique Kerber picked up the biggest win of her comeback as the 35-year-old defeated number 10 seed Jelena Ostapenko 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the third round. Kerber, a former No. 1 and three-time Grand Slam champion, gave birth to her daughter Liana in February 2023. Iga Swiatek, the top seed and 2022 champion, reached the third round with a 6-3, 6-0 victory over Danielle Collins.

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