The sense of generational change hung heavily in the air at Flushing Meadows on Thursday night as Andy Murray sent down a valedictory double fault to exit the US Open second round.
The 2012 champion fell 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 to Grigor Dimitrov, barely an hour after Jack Draper had given another reminder of his startling talent by ousting 17th seed Hubert Hurkacz.
The formidable Pole had complained of feeling unwell, but there was no mistaking the quality of his 21-year-old opponent, who has hardly been without issues himself, given the shoulder problems which have dogged him all summer.
Draper dished out the same treatment as he had done to Felix Auger-Aliassime at the same stage here a year ago, dismissing Hurkacz 6-2, 6-4, 7-5 to make the last 32. He now has the chance to go further as he will meet American wildcard Michael Mmoh, the world No 89, who brought the curtain down on John Isner’s career in a marathon five-setter.
There were faint echoes of 2006-07 when a young Murray was emerging to replace Tim Henman as chief British standard-bearer. It is a role Murray has performed with the utmost distinction, and if this is to prove his farewell to New York it was hardly a fitting one.
Andy Murray’s US Open run ended at the second round after a straight-sets loss to Grigor Dimitrov
Bulgaria’s Dimitrov was seeded 19th for the tournament but defeated the 2012 champion in style
Chuntering to the end and sarcastically applauding his long-suffering support box, he served poorly and was well beaten by the talented Bulgarian, all the more painful because Dimitrov is coached by his former mentor Dani Vallverdu.
After a marathon opening seven games that took nearly an hour, Murray showed glimpses of what made him a great player in the past before resigning himself to a 12th straight major in which he’s failed to make the second week.
Later, he was forlorn after bowing out of another second round, just as he had done at Wimbledon: ‘It’s obviously disappointing not to play how you would like. Maybe I need to accept that at these events the deep runs that I felt like I am capable of, they might not be there.
‘I’m aware what I’m doing (with his metal hip), is unbelievably challenging to play at the highest level, some days it’s harder than others. Today is a really disappointing defeat and probably the manner of it as well.’
He admitted he did not know what his schedule would be for the rest of the year, and cast doubt on playing for GB in the Davis Cup finals qualifying group in Manchester the week after next.
‘If I’m being honest the other guys deserve to play ahead of me. Jack had quite a few injuries coming in but if he’s fit and healthy he’s obviously playing very well, Cam Norrie and Evo (Dan Evans). We’ll see about Davis Cup and what happens there.’
Draper, who is playing with a small tear in an upper arm muscle, again showed how quickly he can find form and reflected on how things have turned around for him since retiring from his ATP match at Winston-Salem a week ago.
‘There was a strong chance I couldn’t play this week. I was with my coach and physio thinking about another bit of time off. We were almost in tears, like, “What more can we do?”,’ said Draper.
Jack Draper’s defeat of big-serving Hubert Hurkacz evoked a sense of generational change
Murray showed signs of what made him a three-time Grand Slam in the past before failing to reach the second week at a major for the 12th consecutive time
Draper has been playing with a small tear in his upper arm but has reached the third round
‘There was maybe a 70-30 chance that I wouldn’t play so I’m very happy with the fact that I have been able to get out there and play, and actually my shoulder has felt great.
‘It’s weird how this sport works. Sometimes you can be at your lowest point and then all of a sudden you get on a bit of form and you’re playing great and your body feels good. I’m kind of looking after it (the shoulder and arm) each day. It was a bit sore after my last match but when the adrenaline kicks in and it’s the US Open, I just put it out of my mind.
‘Even though last year I was maybe a top-50 player and my ranking has dropped, I feel I’m a more complete and better player this year because of the work I’ve done. I’m playing better as a whole. Maybe last year I was taking how well I was doing for granted. Maybe the time off has been a good thing, a reality check.’
Norrie and Evans were also in second round action on Thursday night.