Andy Murray suffered his worst ever Grand Slam defeat in terms of ranking when he became world No. 120 Taro Daniel at the Australian Open. The Scot had beaten the Japanese before losing just five games in their previous encounter in 2016.
But the former world No. 1 looked sluggish and sluggish after his five-set win over world No. 23 Nikoloz Basilashvili at the same John Cain Arena.
And qualifier Daniel played an inspired game, winning 6-4 6-4 6-4 to reach the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time against the three-time Major winner. He attacked the Scot’s second serve, hitting 46 winners with his backhand down the line, a deadly weapon.
It was a sad return to Melbourne Park for the first time since 2019 for the five-time finalist here.
The lowest-ranked player to beat Murray in a Grand Slam before today was world-class 91 Arnaud Clement in the second round of the 2005 US Open.
It was also the only time the world No. 113 had lost to a qualifier before today.
Murray wildcard had claimed that Grand Slam tournaments would give him – and his metal hip – an extra day of rest between matches.
But he has now lost his next match in straight sets all three times he has won a five-setter since his hip resurfaced after his last appearance here in January 2019.
It was the same story at the 2020 US Open when he defeated Yoshihito Nishioka and lost to Felix Auger Aliassime and then at Wimbledon last year when his win over Oscar Otte was followed by a quick defeat to Denis Shapovalov.
Daniel, who has an American father and speaks English with an American accent, swore in his post-match interview.
“I had a cramp at the start of the third set and I was happy to get through it,” he said.
Murray found out early on when he was broken already in the third game of the match when Daniel took his second break point after five deuces.
He made it 3-3 when Daniel missed a backhand – Murray’s lone breaking point of the eight took the first two sets. But the Scot returned the break immediately with a double foul.
It was the same story in the second set as Murray had to save points at 1-3 to leave a double break, but lost the win 6-4.
As Daniel’s level dropped at the start of the third set, Murray looked poised to fight back as he broke the Japanese serve for the second time to lead 2-0.
But again, the world No. 120 broke right back, breaking Murray for the fifth and final time at 4-4 when the Scot backhanded into the net.
The two-time Olympic champion threw his racket to the ground in disgust and received a racket abuse warning from umpire Aurelie Tourte. Daniel took his first match point after two hours and 48 minutes with his first serve-and-volley of the match