Andy Murray overcame cramps throughout his body to win his first-round U.S. Open match, then wondered why they had happened and whether they’ll return.
“It’s not the worst I’ve ever felt, but it’s the worst I’ve ever felt after an hour and an half of a tennis match,” Murray said after battling cramps in the final two sets of his four-set win yesterday against Robin Haase of the Netherlands.
Murray, the 27-year-old from Britain who won the tennis season’s final Grand Slam tournament in 2012, entered this year’s edition as the No. 8 seed and looked in control on the National Tennis Center’s Louis Armstrong Stadium court, winning the first two sets 6-3, 7-6 (8-6). The next two, however, were much tougher as both players battled injury.
“I’ve seen a lot of matches and I’ve got to say this is one of the top-10 weirdest I’ve seen,” four-time U.S. Open champion John McEnroe said while serving as a match analyst for ESPN.
Playing in abundant sunshine, the temperature during the match in New York was 87 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius).
Early in the third set, Murray began to cramp in his upper back and then his forearms. Deciding to save his energy for the fourth set, he dropped the third set 6-1 and then fell behind 4-1 in the fourth while the cramps moved lower in his body to his legs.
Haase, who said he was surprised at Murray’s willingness to throw away a set, at several points seemed poised to force a decisive fifth set. Battling his own physical issues and what he called his mental uncertainty, he was unable to take advantage, making errors that included misplays on two easy smash attempts.
“I was struggling myself, so I tried to play my game and it didn’t bother me what he did or what he felt,” Haase told reporters after the loss.
Haase said he was affected by the quick turnaround on the Armstrong court after Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland cruised past Sharon Fichman of Canada in 47 minutes, leaving him less time to ready himself for Murray. He also had been battling a foot injury and called the trainer during the fourth set to attend to it, but said he was rebuffed.
“I’ve never heard that before, that the physio can deny a treatment or just say, ‘I’ll go get the doctor on the next changeover and you’ll get your pill,’ and that’s it,” Haase said. “We’re here at a Grand Slam, what is that?”
Haase added that he plans to complain to the ATP Tour and U.S. Open organizers about the trainer’s unwillingness to provide complete treatment for his injury.
While Haase was battling his own problems, Murray spun in softer serves and played more aggressively on Haase’s second-serve attempts in an effort to conserve energy and shorten the points. The plan worked as Haase crumbled and Murray took the final four games to close out the set 7-5.
The match took three hours, eight minutes and Murray moved on despite hitting 47 winners, compared with 61 for Haase.
“It was unexpected,” Murray said of the adversity he faced. “I felt extremely good before the match and I’ve been training really hard.”
Murray’s seed is his lowest at the U.S. Open since 2007, when he was No. 19. He beat Novak Djokovic in five sets in 2012 to become the first British men’s champion since Fred Perry in 1936, and lost to Stan Wawrinka in the quarterfinals last year.
“The fact that it was the whole body suggests that maybe it would have been from eating or drinking,” Murray said, adding he’s unsure if the cramps will resurface. “We won’t know until the next match and when I’m pushed into these conditions again.”
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