John McEnroe watched Andy Murray fall to Stanislas Wawrinka and recognised an element of something he had tussled with himself: burnout.
The two men are not entirely dissimilar in talent or temperament, so it was telling that McEnroe believes the 26-year-old Scot is still coming to terms with the magnitude of winning Wimbledon.
Murray, who arrived home yesterday for a brief stop before flying to Croatia for the Davis Cup tie which starts on Friday, kept trying to start the engine in his quarter-final but appeared to be running on fumes.McEnroe could recall how difficult it is to summon up at will the kind of resolve needed to fight off an inspired opponent like the Swiss No 2, and believes the solution is a proper break.
‘I think Andy was on such a high that you inevitably come down. After all those years trying to win Wimbledon inevitably there would be a letdown,’ observed the 54-year-old American, who won the US Open four times.
‘There looked to be some mental strain there, a bit of burnout. He has been pretty flat in these American tournaments; I think it’s a mental thing after all that effort.
‘He didn’t have that much time off when he could enjoy it, and he was almost straight back into training. I felt like I was dealing with a lot of pressure when I played Wimbledon, some of it self-inflicted, but it was a lot more for Andy being a home player. The more you win the more you are expected to win, but you can’t win Grand Slams all the time. I played for 15 years and won only seven of them.’
At present Murray has played 49 singles matches in 2013, which is fewer than Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic, but he would not be human if the title at SW19 did not have an effect.
He has certainly not been slacking on the hours of training or begun a world tour of the circuit’s nightclubs. It is more that the intensity of approach has been missing, as witnessed on Thursday.
There is, perhaps, a parallel with what happened to Nadal at Wimbledon. After coming back from a long injury the Spaniard put in a massive emotional effort to win at Roland Garros. As it turned out, SW19 came just too soon afterwards to really fire himself up for it.
Mixed emotions: Murray looks dejected as Stanislas Wawrinka celebrates
For Murray, after next week’s three-day match in Umag — where he will probably need to win two singles and the doubles to secure a promotion play-off win for Britain — he has an arduous-looking schedule.
After a week off he is due to play in Bangkok, Tokyo and Shanghai before coming back to Europe for the indoor Masters event in Paris and the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London.
McEnroe believes he would be well advised to cut down his Asia trip.
‘He should take some extra time off after the Davis Cup and try to finish strong in London at the Tour Finals, then he can start to get ready for the Australian Open. I certainly wouldn’t be too concerned about the next month of tournaments.’
Unfortunately, Murray is not very good at scheduling when he has time off and has a tendency to overtrain when he would be better off refreshing the brain. He had less than two weeks off after Wimbledon, squeezing in a quick break to the Bahamas with girlfriend Kim Sears, before insisting on returning to the grindstone of training at his base in Miami.
Murray’s work ethic and enthusiasm for training can sometimes prove counter-productive, as seen in the clay-court season, when his body could not take what he was asking it to do.
One outcome of Thursday is that Murray will slip further behind Djokovic and Nadal in the rankings in third place, losing more than half of the 2000 ranking points he gained from this event last year. That will underline the evolving task facing Murray as he tries to add to his two Grand Slam titles.
Djokovic is destined to dog him for his whole career, but the surprise is that Nadal has returned as such a force on hard courts as well as clay.
Today both will be favourites to win their respective semi-finals. Djokovic, who took four sets to beat Mikhail Youzhny, will face world No 10 Wawrinka, while Nadal faces Richard Gasquet, the gifted Frenchman who has finally come good.