Mur­ray drops Soares for all-bri­tish dou­bles pair­ing with Skup­ski

Scot ad­mits it was his call to end three-year union Pair end part­ner­ship with de­feat in Paris

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - French Open - Si­mon Briggs TEN­NIS COR­RE­SPON­DENT at Roland Gar­ros

Bri­tain’s top dou­bles player, Jamie Mur­ray, ad­mit­ted yes­ter­day that it was his call to end his 3½-year part­ner­ship with Bruno Soares and join forces with Liver­pool’s Neal Skup­ski for the forth­com­ing grass-court sea­son.

Mur­ray and Soares claimed 10 ti­tles to­gether – in­clud­ing two grand slams – and fin­ished the 2016 sea­son as the top-ranked part­ner­ship in the world. But Mur­ray told re­porters yes­ter­day: “I felt like now is the right time to change it up and do some­thing dif­fer­ent.”

He chose not to ex­pand on his rea­son­ing, say­ing: “We have spo­ken [about the root causes], but I don’t think I should tell that to the world.”

One area of ten­sion is un­der­stood to re­late to Soares’s reg­u­lar trips back to Brazil be­tween tour­na­ments, leav­ing Mur­ray to train with his coach, Alan Macdon­ald, or his men­tor, Louis Cayer.

Mur­ray and Soares played more than 200 matches to­gether, win­ning al­most 70 per cent of them. But they fin­ished on a dis­ap­point­ing note in Paris yes­ter­day, as they were elim­i­nated in the first round by the Ital­ian com­bi­na­tion of Mat­teo Ber­re­tini and Lorenzo Sonego 4-6, 7-5, 7-6.

It can­not be easy to per­form as a part­ner­ship when you have al­ready agreed to sep­a­rate. “I didn’t find it weird,” said Mur­ray af­ter the match. “We are still a great team. I am sure both of us wanted to go out with a great re­sult and fin­ish on a high. Sadly, it wasn’t the case. That’s life. It hap­pens some­times.”

That same awk­ward­ness was also present in the in­ter­view room yes­ter­day, as the pair turned up to­gether for their post-match me­dia du­ties. The at­mos­phere had the flavour of a di­vorce-court hear­ing at which both par­ties are try­ing to stay on friendly terms, de­spite the divi­sion of their record col­lec­tion.

“Bruno’s one of my best friends on the tour and we had a lot of fun to­gether,” said Mur­ray, while Soares re­sponded: “It wasn’t a shock. I am very easy. I re­spect his de­ci­sion. I don’t take it per­son­ally. It’s our job. If you are not happy with some­thing, you have got to try some­thing dif­fer­ent.”

Skup­ski will also be break­ing up his es­tab­lished part­ner­ship, with el­der brother Ken. Neal played in a Chal­lenger tour­na­ment in Phoenix, Ari­zona, with Mur­ray in March and they lifted the ti­tle af­ter edg­ing a se­ries of sud­den-death match tiebreaks.

“We spoke in depth with my brother,” said Skup­ski, “and de­cided that I couldn’t turn it down. Jamie’s No6 in the world [and there are] ob­vi­ously other op­por­tu­ni­ties that could come about, maybe Davis Cup, Olympics. I’ve had my best year, so it’s come at an un­for­tu­nate time. But at the end of the day, it’s a busi­ness.”

In sin­gles, it was a mixed day for Bri­tain’s men. Kyle Ed­mund was the lone suc­cess story as he ended his un­happy se­quence of five straight de­feats by fin­ish­ing off his epic strug­gle with Jeremy Chardy in just seven min­utes.

On Mon­day night, these two had fought each other to a stand­still be­fore bad light forced a sus­pen­sion of play with the score 5-5 in the de­cid­ing set. But Ed­mund came out the stronger yes­ter­day, win­ning eight of the 10 points played to com­plete a morale-boost­ing 7-6, 5-7, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 vic­tory in 4hr 2min over­all. “Best of five was a marathon, but this was a sprint today and I just went for it,” said Ed­mund af­ter­wards.

Cameron Nor­rie, the Bri­tish No 2, came to grief against an­other French op­po­nent, how­ever, as he suf­fered a sur­pris­ing 6-3, 6-0, 6-2 de­feat at the hands of qual­i­fier El­liot Benchetrit, a promis­ing 20-year-old ranked 232rd in the world.

“The big­gest dis­ap­point­ment for me today is that I didn’t re­ally bring my level and I didn’t en­joy it out there,” Nor­rie said af­ter his 84-minute exit on Court 7. “I’m hon­estly not too both­ered about win­ning. If you win and lose ten­nis matches, it hap­pens. But when I’m re­ally en­joy­ing it, I’m kind of com­pet­ing well. I don’t think I com­peted well.”

Later, Dan Evans made 23rd seed Fer­nando Ver­dasco work hard be­fore suc­cumb­ing to a 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 6-2 de­feat.

Break­ing up: Jamie Mur­ray (right) and Bruno Soares won 10 ti­tles to­gether

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