190111 Murray
Andy Murray is out of the Rennes Open after a punishing 6-2 4-6 6-1 defeat to Roman Safiullin in the last 16. Image Credit: AFP

Rennes: Ex-world number one Andy Murray was knocked out in the last-16 of the second-tier Challenger in Rennes as the three-time major winner continued his search for late-season momentum.

Murray, now down at 116 in the world, lost to 158th-ranked Roman Safiullin of Russia, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1.

The 34-year-old Murray, pushed to the brink of retirement in 2019 by a hip injury, managed to save three match points before succumbing.

Murray had defeated Germany’s Yannick Maden 6-3, 6-1 in the first round on Monday in front of around 2,000 fans.

Fiery five-setter

Just two weeks earlier, he had been playing on the 24,000-capacity Arthur Ashe Court in New York, losing a fiery five-setter to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the first round of the US Open.

“One of the goals between now and the end of the year is to try and make a big improvement with my ranking, and to do that, I need to be competing often,” said Murray earlier this week.

“I still feel like I can play a very high level but if all of the time when I go to the big tournaments I play top players right at the beginning of the event, it’s not so easy.”