Murray Cruises to First-Round U.S. Open Win After Three-Day Wait

Andy Murray waited three days to open defense of his title at the U.S. Open tennis championship. He didn’t let a few extra hours’ delay affect his performance.

Murray moved into the second round with a 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 victory against Michael Llodra of France last night at the National Tennis Center in New York, where his opener started at almost 10 p.m. local time because of rain delays. Nobody at the season’s final Grand Slam tournament waited longer to play a first-round match than Murray and Llodra.

“Playing at that time for your first round is not ideal,” Murray said in a news conference. “You just want to get on the court and play. Whether it’s Arthur Ashe Stadium or court 15, it doesn’t really matter.”

Two-time champion Venus Williams lost in the second round at the U.S. Open for the third straight year, while younger sister and defending champion Serena Williams had her match pushed back to today because of rain showers that canceled four afternoon women’s singles matches yesterday.

Even with Serena Williams’s match being postponed, Murray’s wait was extended because 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro needed four hours and 13 minutes to fight past Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 7-6 (9-7) at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Murray finally took the court in the main stadium at 9:55 p.m., the third-latest start for a U.S. Open night session, according to the U.S. Tennis Association. The latest for the tournament took place in 2009, when James Blake and Tommy Robredo opened night play on Ashe at 10:25 p.m.

Blake’s Exit

Blake, 33, had his tennis career come to an end early this morning with a five-set loss to Ivo Karlovic of Croatia in which he blew a two-set lead. Karlovic won the fifth-set tiebreaker 7-2 against Blake, who said earlier this week that he’d be retiring after the U.S. Open.

After the match, Blake thanked those fans who stayed until after midnight in Louis Armstrong Stadium and cheered him on with chants of “Let’s go, James!”

“It’s hitting me now that I’ll never have this again in my life,” Blake said in an on-court interview. “Everything I did, every bit of hard work was worth it. I have had so many highs and lows in front of you, it’ll never be forgotten.”

Second-seeded Rafael Nadal of Spain, No. 4 David Ferrer of Spain and No. 7 Roger Federer of Switzerland are scheduled to play second-round matches today. In addition to Serena Williams, who meets Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan in the second round this afternoon in Ashe, other seeded women in action today include No. 4 Sara Errani of Italy, No. 6 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark and No. 9 Jelena Jankovic of Serbia.

Williams Ousted

Venus Williams lost 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (7-5) to Zheng Jie of China in a match that took three hours and two minutes, tied for the fifth-longest women’s match at the U.S. Open since records started being kept in 1970. Tied at 5-5 in the final-set tiebreaker, Williams hit a shot into the net and then sent a backhand wide to end it.

“Unfortunately I didn’t play consistently enough,” Williams said. “I just dug myself into so many holes the whole match. I just fought as hard as I could to get out of them, but sometimes it wasn’t enough.”

The 56th-ranked Zheng advances to face No. 18 seed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain, who beat American qualifier Coco Vandeweghe 6-3, 6-4. Venus Williams wasn’t seeded this year after falling to No. 60 in the world rankings.

Fifteenth-seeded Sloane Stephens of the U.S. won the final Day 3 match, rolling to a 6-1, 6-1 rout of Urszula Radwanska of Poland in 58 minutes after starting at 11:53 p.m. It was the second-latest for a U.S. Open match, behind only a midnight start time for a 1987 first-round meeting between Gabriela Sabatini and Beverly Bowes, according to the USTA.

Li Advances

Li Na played the first match in Arthur Ashe Stadium yesterday before the first rain delay, beating Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden 6-2, 6-2. Li, 31, is the 2011 French Open winner who’s seeded fifth in the women’s draw.

Agnieszka Radwanska, the No. 3 seed from Poland, beat Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor of Spain 6-0, 7-5 and will face Russia’s No. 32-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the third round. Pavlyuchenkova beat Australian wild-card entrant Ashleigh Barty 6-4, 6-0.

Men’s No. 9 Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland was a straight-set winner against Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic, while No. 16 Fabio Fognini of Italy and No. 24 Benoit Paire of France both lost their opening matches. Fognini was beaten by Rajeev Ram of the U.S. 6-1, 6-2, 6-2, while Paire lost to Russia’s Alex Bogomolov Jr. 7-5 in a fifth-set tiebreaker.

Kevin Anderson, the men’s No. 17 seed from South Africa, moved into the second round with a four-set win against Daniel Brands of Germany, while No. 21 Mikhail Youzhny of Russia was a straight-set winner against Nicolas Mahut of France.

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