Murray will have a chance to atone on his preferred grass courts of Wimbledon later this month, but his 6-4 6-7 (3-7) 6-3 6-2 French Open quarter-final loss to sixth seed David Ferrer today surely must have removed the Scot from a so-called Big Four of men’s tennis.
Boasting 31 grand slam titles between them – to Murray’s none – Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are undoubtedly the Big Three, in a league of their own.
Instead of facing Murray in Friday’s semi-finals in Paris, Nadal will meet countryman Ferrer, while Djokovic will square off with Federer in a rematch of last year’s semis, as the Serb tries to complete the first non-calendar-year grand slam in 45 years of professional tennis.
For Murray, a three-time grand slam runner-up, it’s back to square one as he looks to Wimbledon to finally break Britain’s 76-year drought in men’s majors.
“I’ll need to put some good work in before Wimbledon, that’s for sure,” the Scot said.
“I was sort of getting a little bit out of breath after some of the longer rallies.
“I need to make sure I get a solid base in before Wimbledon.”
At least he manfully accepted his place in the pecking order, on the slow surface anyway.
“I think the four best claycourt players in the world are left in and whoever plays best will win,” Murray said.
“Probably have to favour Rafa slightly, but everyone is playing very, very well.”
In truth, Nadal is an overwhelming favourite to stop Ferrer for the 16th time in 20 meetings with his Davis Cup teammate.
The six-time champion’s 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 6-3 quarter-final win over over Nicolas Almagro was his 50th at the spiritual home of claycourt tennis since first competing in Paris as an 18-year-old in 2005.
Nadal’s only defeat came in the fourth round in 2009 when his knees failed him against Swede Robin Soderling.
The claycourt king has lost just 30 games in five matches – and no sets – this campaign.
“It will be a tough match against Rafa. He’s the best in history on this surface, but I hope to have a good match,” Ferrer said.
Ever respectful, Nadal is expecting “nothing new” from his long-time friend and rival.
“We played each other a lot of times,” he said.
“His game bothers everybody because he’s one of the best players in the world in every surface, in clay especially.
“Everything, he’s a complete player. It’s very difficult to play against him because his movements are probably the best of the world and he’s able to hit the ball very early a lot of the times.
“It will be a very tough match.”