Andy Murray rolled back the years to thrill spectators at the US Open once again, but despite an heroic effort, it was third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas who claimed a thrilling five-set, near five-hour epic on the opening day.
Murray, currently ranked 112 in the world as he continues to battle back from the hip surgery he underwent more than two years ago, got the sort of draw many would have feared against Tsitsipas – a player who reached the French Open final earlier this year.
The tournament may have kicked off without several of the sport’s biggest names, but the 2012 champion in New York turned back the clock to give the Greek third seed a serious first-round scare in sweltering conditions, eventually falling to a 2-6 7-6 (9-7) 3-6 6-3 6-4 defeat.
The Scot served exceptionally well to sweep through the opening set and give spectators on Arthur Ashe Stadium, who missed out last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, something to cheer.
Things could have got even better for the 34-year-old former world No 1 had he taken two set-point chances in the second set tie-break.
Tsitsipas rallied to level the match, leaving Murray, whose socks and trainers were soaked due to the intense humidity, to dredge his way back to the locker rooms for a complete outfit change.
Murray headed into this Grand Slam with “low expectations” blaming a lack of consistency. He had made early exits in Cincinnati and the Winston-Salem Open, but his form against Tsitsipas had come completely out of the blue.
He rebounded in brilliant fashion at the start of the third set, playing instinctively to move one set away from his first win over a top-three player since the 2016 ATP Finals. However, the Greek made sure there was more to come as we headed into a deciding set shootout after he clinched the fourth.
The three-time Grand Slam champion had the New York crowd firmly on his side as the underdog, but it was the 23-year-old who broke Murray’s brave resistance.
Murray fumes at Tsitsipas toilet break
Afterwards, Murray said he had lost respect for Tsitsipas after bowing out tournament.
The 34-year-old Scot was livid at the lengthy bathroom breaks Tsitsipas was taking between sets and demanded more should be done to clamp down on the “nonsense”.
Murray said: “It’s not so much leaving the court. It’s the amount of time.
“It’s just disappointing because I feel it influenced the outcome of the match. I’m not saying I necessarily win that match, for sure, but it had influence on what was happening after those breaks.
“I rate him a lot. I think he’s a brilliant player. I think he’s great for the game. But I have zero time for that stuff at all, and I lost respect for him.
“That’s what I feel. But if everyone else feels like that’s totally cool and there’s no issue with it, then maybe I’m the one being unreasonable. But I think it’s nonsense. And he knows it, as well.”
Tsitsipas denied bending the rules with his bathroom breaks, saying: “I played by the guidelines, how everything is. I don’t know how my opponent feels when I’m out there playing the match. It’s not really my priority.
“As far as I’m playing by the rules and sticking to what the ATP says is fair, then the rest is fine. I have nothing against him. Absolutely nothing.”
Credit: Sky Sports