Four straight defeats, no wins in 2024, a lack of confidence on the court and - by his standards - some sloppy mistakes. It was almost inevitable Andy Murray would come under criticism.

It's a common trend for struggling sportsmen and women to face brutal judgement in their worst moments, but calls for Murray to retire are well over the line.

Murray himself admitted he is currently battling through a "terrible moment" in his career but he surely couldn't have predicted an onslaught of this magnitude having previously been the golden boy of world tennis.

Last week Murray vowed he wouldn't quit as he responded to a BBC article questioning his future in the game and the suggestion his recent string of defeats could damage his legacy.

In a bullish response, Murray had stated: "Tarnishing my legacy? Do me a favour. 

"I’m in a terrible moment right now I’ll give you that.

"Most people would quit and give up in my situation right now. But I’m not most people and my mind works differently.

"I won’t quit. I will keep fighting and working to produce the performances I know I’m capable of."

As Murray tumbled out of the Open 13 Provence to Tomas Machac you could almost hear the knives sharpening and keyboards clattering ready to retire him, again.

The 36-year-old was beaten within two hours in a straight sets 7-5, 6-4 loss to Czech talent Machac - a rising talent ranked 66th at just 23 years old with victory over Murray his biggest scalp to date.

However, there remained grounds for optimism and celebration even in a disappointing defeat on the hard indoor surface for Murray. The fundamentals remain, even if costly errors have crept in.

His technique remains undeniable, his fitness levels are still at the level required and there is evidence of the sprinkling of Murray magic dust even in the most frustrating of defeats.

Murray still has all the ability and application to succeed on the court, it's just the rather complex matter of putting it all together and claiming that first win of 2024 to fend off a barrage of criticism almost as intensely hurled in his direction as Machac's service game.

Look, it is obvious Murray isn't currently ready to compete with the elite in the sport but to rule it out in the future would be as foolish as writing Murray off throughout the many arduous and intimidating challenges he has already overcome in his 19-year career so far.

This is an athlete who has consistently defied the odds throughout his career and righty gained swathes of support along the way for his all-or-nothing style on the court.

Two significant hip surgeries and back problems would suggest Murray's time competing was well past, wrong. A drop out of the top 800 in the world might foreshadow a career fading out, wrong again.

Then there's the matter of competing against one of the most talented generations of tennis professionals; Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic (who is the same age as Murray). Surely that would deny Murray of any success, make that a hat-trick of incorrect assumptions Murray swiftly threw out in his career.

With that in mind, it is unthinkable that critics would continue to question Murray, or detractors celebrate a testing period for the world number 49.

A cursory glance on social media would leave the impression Murray's inclusion on the tour is little more than a pity party that ought to be ended. 

That couldn't be further from the truth or what Murray desires. The Scotsman remains must-watch entertainment and, crucially, a serious threat in any competition he finds his rhythm.

It begs the question: so long as Murray continues to give everything on the court every time he competes then why should he consider giving up his biggest sporting passion? 

There's no escaping the matter for Murray, though. He will continually be discussed with a retirement date in mind. He even admitted himself he could call time on his career in the near future.

"I haven't made any definite decisions on that. But I've spoken to my family and my team about it," said Murray previously of when he would retire from competing.

"They're very aware of how I feel about things, where I would like to finish playing, when that would be."

Wherever and whenever the time comes for Murray to step back from professional competition it will be a devastating loss for tennis and for Scottish sport.

Maybe then the criticism will end and he'll receive the admiration and celebration he deserves.