Seeking form and matches, Andy Murray decided to go down to the Challenger Tour for the first time since 2005, entering Rafa Nadal Open in Mallorca as his (most probably) last preparation ahead of the Chinese swing in Zhuhai and Beijing.
After a comfortable victory over the 17-year-old who trains here at the Academy, Andy took down the 3rd seed Norbert Gombos to set the third-round clash with the Italian Matteo Viola that he lost 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 after grueling two hours and 43 minutes.
Murray won six points more than the opponent but that wasn't enough to carry him over the finish line, losing ground in the tie break to push Viola through to the quarter-final. Andy played better behind the first serve but the second let him down, dropping serve five times from ten chances given to Viola and responding with five breaks from 11 chances, unable to steal the opponent's serve one more time before the tie break in the final set and hitting the exit door after first back-to-back triumphs since September last year.
Saving a break point in the opening game, Murray broke for a 2-0 lead when the Italian netted a forehand, getting broken in the next game at 15 before delivering another break at love that sent him 3-1 in front. Serving well in the remaining three service games, Andy closed the opener with a forehand down the line winner in game nine for a 6-3, hoping for more of the same in the rest of the encounter despite the face he was too passive at moments, waiting for the rival to make a mistake instead of going for shots.
A return winner secured an early break for Viola in the second game, wasting game points at 3-1 and allowing Andy to break back with a return winner of his own and get back to the positive side of the scoreboard. A volley winner secured another break for Matteo in the next game, serving for the set at 5-3 but getting broken at love after a deep return from Murray who was the favorite to bring the match home from there now.
Instead of that, the Briton played one of his worst smashes ever in the tenth game to suffer the third break of the set and hand it to Viola who opened a 2-0 advantage at the beginning of the third set following a forehand error from Murray who pulled the break back in the next game thanks to a loose drop shot from the Italian that barely reached the net.
Andy held after two deuces in game four and they both served well in the rest of the regular games, playing on a high level behind the initial shot to set up a tie break where Viola moved 3-0 up with two mini-breaks. Saving the first match point with a solid forehand attack, Murray reduced the deficit to 3-6 before hitting a terrible double fault that pushed Viola into the last eight after an entertaining battle.