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Andy Murray loses upset bid in U.S. Open — and calls his opponent’s tactics ‘rubbish’

Andy Murray reacts after losing a point to Stefanos Tsitsipas during the first round of the U.S. Open on Monday.
(Seth Wenig / Associated Press)

Andy Murray has been waiting for a breakthrough performance since he returned to competition after his second hip surgery in 2019, a resurfacing procedure he initially feared might end his career. The three-time Grand Slam singles champion had fallen to No. 118 in the world but had been feeling good and was able to train regularly before the U.S. Open. That breakthrough was coming. He was sure.

He came achingly close on a hot and humid afternoon that bled into the evening, showing in a five-set match against No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece that he has miles left in his legs at age 34 and enough passion in his heart to push himself to an astonishingly high level. Moving well, pumping his fist when he won points and games, unseeded Murray had the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium with him Monday as pulled ahead of 23-year-old Tsitsipas, a potential challenger to the Grand Slam dominance of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

But Murray couldn’t avoid becoming frustrated by what he saw as delaying tactics by Tsitsipas, who took a medical timeout after the third set and received a time violation warning for taking too long to return to the court after the fourth set. Tsitsipas came back to win 2-6, 7-6 (7), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, leaving Murray fuming over his opponent’s gamesmanship.

Brandon Nakashima managed to climb more than 200 spots in the rankings despite playing in few tournaments in this pandemic-shortened season.

“I’m sitting in here after a match like that against one of the best players in the world, and rather than talking about how fantastic he is, how good he is for the game, how great it was for me that I was able to put on a performance like that after everything that’s gone on the last four years, but I’m sitting in here talking about bathroom breaks and medical timeouts and delays in matches,” Murray said. “That’s rubbish. I don’t think that that’s right.”

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Murray said the delays were timed to throw him off. “You cannot stop the way that that affects you physically. When you’re playing a brutal match like that, you know, stopping for seven, eight minutes, you do cool down,” he said. “You can prepare for it mentally as much as you like, but it’s the fact that it does affect you physically when you take a break that long, well, multiple times during the match.”

Tsitsipas said he would have preferred to have Murray approach him before airing those grievances publicly. “I don’t think I broke any rules. I played by the guidelines, how everything is,” Tsitsipas said. “Yeah, definitely something for both of us to kind of chat about and make sure. I don’t know how my opponent feels when I’m out there playing the match. It’s not really my priority.”

Tsitispas also denied having texted his father for coaching help while off the court during a recent tournament in Cincinnati. “I have never in my career done that. I don’t know what kind of imagination it takes to go to that point,” he said.

Murray will continue working and waiting for his breakthrough. There’s something noble in that. “I know I’m capable of playing that tennis. I need to spend time on the court, getting the chance to play against these guys,” he said. “Ultimately when I get on the court with them, need to prove it. I guess tonight I proved some things to a certain extent. Obviously didn’t win the match.”

Brandon Nakashima upsets John Isner

Brandon Nakashima hits a return during his victory over John Isner in the first round of the U.S. Open on Monday.
(Elsa Garrison / Getty Images)

The faded fortunes of elite American men‘s tennis players got a boost when wild-card entrant Brandon Nakashima of San Diego upset No. 19 seed John Isner in a first-round match at Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Nakashima, ranked 84th in the world, played well in crucial situations and converted his first match point to clinch a 7-6 (7), 7-6 (6), 6-3 victory before an appreciative crowd.

No American man has won a Grand Slam singles title since Andy Roddick won the U.S. Open in 2003. Nakashima was barely 2 years old then; he’s now 20. Isner is the highest-ranked American man in the world, at No. 22.

Nakashima’s hopes are modest at the moment, but he’s aiming high long-term.

“Right now it’s just keep improving as much as possible, developing my game. Hopefully I would like to become No. 1 in the world one day, win all the Slams,” he said. “I think it’s a long journey ahead of me. At this point I think developing my game is important right now. I think the results will come if I put the hard work on the practice court.”

Brandon Nakashima managed to climb more than 200 spots in the rankings despite playing in few tournaments in this pandemic-shortened season.

Nakashima committed 16 unforced errors, to 28 by Isner. Nakashima made 32 forced errors to 50 by Isner, who wasn’t surprised by Nakashima’s poise and purpose.

“Someone asked me I guess a couple days ago, ‘Do you think experience will play a factor?’ I said, no, because he’s got a very good demeanor out there on the court,” Isner said of Nakashima. “I think that served him well today, and I think it’s going to serve him well in the future also.”

Long delays

The return of fans led to long delays to enter the grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, with crowds especially big at the East gate after arriving by subway. Everyone entering the grounds was required to provide proof of at least one vaccination and to allow their bags to be searched. Attendance was announced as 30,993 for the day session and 22,790 for the evening session.

The U.S. Tennis Assn. said it is seeking solutions to “expedite ease of access to the grounds without compromising any necessary security measures.” It identified the problems as fans having arrived later than at previous tournaments and having brought “an inordinate number of bags.” Checking proof of vaccination was not a problem, the organization said in a statement.

Brady withdraws

Former UCLA standout Jennifer Brady, a semifinalist at the U.S. Open a year ago and the runner-up at this year’s Australian Open, withdrew before her first match because of an unspecified injury. Jelena Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open winner, also withdrew for medical reasons. On the men’s side, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga withdrew because of a leg injury.

Another former UCLA star, Marcos Giron of Thousand Oaks, advanced with a 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 victory over Antoine Hoang of France.


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