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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Thursday, August 31, 2023

NEW YORK—Passion propels Andy Murray to play on. 

The former world No. 1 loves his work, but faced major reality check today.

Alcaraz: One Direction

Applying all-court acumen, Grigor Dimitrov defeated Murray 6-3, 6-4, 6-1, rolling into the US Open third round for the fourth time.

In a clash between former US Open boys' champions, Dimitrov doubled Murray's winner output—32 to 16—broke to start each set and masterfully mixed his slice backhand with his heavy topspin forehand to beat the two-time Olympic gold-medal champion for the first time since the 2016 Miami Open.

It's the fourth time in his last five Flushing Meadows appearances Murray failed to survive the second round. Reviewing his Grand Slam struggles recently—Murray fell in five sets to fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Wimbledon second round after bowing to No. 25 Roberto Bautista Agut in the Australian Open third round—the three-time Grand Slam champion said he must face reality that his days of summoning major magic may be done.

"It's obviously disappointing to not play how you would like. But maybe I need to accept that these events, I had the deep runs and everything that I felt like I'm capable of, they might not be there, as well," Murray told the media afterward. "So, you know, I'm aware what I'm doing, it's unbelievably challenging to play at the highest level as I am now. And yeah, some days it's harder than others.

"But today is obviously a really disappointing defeat and probably the manner of it as well. I mean, I fought hard enough, but yeah, just didn't, like I say, didn't play well enough. You know, ultimately these are the events that you want to play your best tennis in, and, you know, create more great moments and didn't do that this year."

The man playing with the metal hip implant has shown steely spine in his comeback from hip surgery.

The 37th-ranked Murray narrowly missed being seeded in New York, which theoretically would have given him a gentler draw. The 36-year-old Murray said seeded status at Slams would help, but at this point it's about playing quality tennis each time out and that eluded him today.

"It's more about how well you play," Murray said. "Like, you know, if I want to have deep runs in these tournaments, I'm going to have to come up against players like Grigor or Tsitsipas or, you know, whoever in Australia, played Berrettini in the first round and Bautista in the third round. These are obviously top players.

"Obviously being seeded avoids them early. But for me, it's more about sort of the level you put out there and the performance and whether I was seeded or not here in the top 32, then I don't think that that guarantees that I'm going to have a deep run either."

That doesn't mean Murray is considering hanging up his Head racquet just yet. Murray, who said he'd like to represent Great Britain in Davis Cup, "but if I'm being honest, the other guys deserve to play ahead of me," said as long as he still has the love, and his ranking isn't going south, he hopes to play on. 

"I still enjoy everything that goes into playing at a high level. I enjoy the work," Murray said. "The training and trying to improve and trying to get better, I do still enjoy that.

"Yeah, and that's what keeps me going. If things change and I stop enjoying that or my results, my ranking and everything, like, if I start to go backwards in that respect, you know, in a few months' time I was ranked 60 in the world or whatever instead of moving up the way, things might change."

Photo credit: Simon Bruty/USTA/US Open