Andy Murray tastes bittersweet loss in 'unexpected' French Open final
For Andy Murray, reaching Sunday's French Open final was a bonus, but he was in no mood to look for silver linings in the aftermath of yet another grand slam reverse at the hands of Novak Djokovic.
The second-seeded Briton's 3-6 6-1 6-2 6-4 defeat on Court Philippe Chatrier was his fifth loss in seven blue riband finals against the Serbian world number one, and his eighth out of 10 finals in all.
"I was struggling. I was a couple of points from going out of the tournament in the first round," he told reporters.
"But then when you get there (to the final) obviously you want to win. You know, I didn't do that today. Right now I'm very disappointed."
Had he turned the tables on a player he has beaten just twice in the past 14 meetings, Murray would have become the first British man to win the French Open since Fred Perry in 1935.
The last of those rare Murray victories came in May's Italian Open final, also played on clay -- a surface the Scot once mistrusted but now looks increasingly at ease on -- and in the same damp conditions that dominated this year's Roland Garros fortnight.
Facing a Paris crowd heavily favouring his opponent in a stadium dotted on all sides with Serbian flags, the Scot managed to carry that momentum into the early part of Sunday's match -- one he said after his semi-final win over Stan Wawrinka that he had "never expected to reach".
Murray won 16 of 20 points at one stage of the first set.
But after failing to convert a break point in the first game of the second set, Murray lost the initiative and Djokovic kicked into a higher gear.
The Serbian faltered only at the sharp end of the match, nervously dropping serve at 5-2 as the prospect of winning his fourth major in a row began to sink in, but sealing the match two games later.
GRACIOUS AND WITTY
When it was all over, Murray crossed the net to embrace his rival, well aware of the immensity of an achievement he paid tribute to in a gracious, witty courtside speech.
"Winning all four of the grand slams in one year is an amazing achievement. This is something that is so rare in tennis," he said.
"...So everyone here who came to watch is obviously extremely lucky to see it. Me personally being on the opposite side, it sucks to lose the match. But I am proud to have been part of today."
Murray acknowledged that same sense of perspective might help him view his achievements in a kinder light at the end of his career, having shared top-four billing over many years with Djokovic and two other all-time greats of the game in Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Federer missed this year's tournament with a back problem and Nadal had to pull out with a wrist injury after the second round.
"Obviously the guys I have been around the last few years have made things difficult for me," he said.
"But I guess I've got a few more years to try and (win more slams). I think when I finish I will be more proud of my achievements maybe."
Meanwhile next month's Wimbledon beckons, and another chance to set the record straight -- this time on a surface on which the Serbian has never beaten him.