Andy Murray wasn’t exactly in the best of spirits in the aftermath of his first-round match at the United States Open. It wasn’t simply because he lost; given that he had played in just six matches all year, and that he crashed out after two rounds in his two tuneup events, he wasn’t expected to put up much of a fight against third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas. It was because he bowed out under what he deemed to be questionable circumstances.
Certainly, the fact that Murray lasted five sets, and that he actually led two sets to one, with victory in sight, added to the frustration. For all the supposed handicaps of an advancing age and increasing susceptibility to injury, he did extremely well to further animate an Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd only too willing to egg him on. As was his wont in his prime, he put his competitiveness front and center, and his capacity to trade groundstrokes with and, for most of the set-to, take the measure of Tsitsipas underscored his pedigree.
Unfortunately, time was not on Murray’s side. As the contest progressed in the fourth and fifth rounds, the pendulum moved farther and farther away from him. And, at least as far as he was concerned, it didn’t help that Tsitsipas leaned on gamesmanship to arrest his momentum; a medical time out and a long rest room break, in his opinion, stiffened him up and made him less sharp. True, it was perfectly legal, as his opponent argued. Whether it was likewise legitimate is another matter altogether.
Which, for all intents, was why Murray took some time in his post-mortem to address what he believed to be underhanded stoppages that “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.” He went on to question the supposed foot ailment that led to the medical time out. “The match went on for another two and a bit hours after that, [and] he was fine. Moving great, I thought.”
It bears noting that Murray was affected enough to say he “lost respect” for Tsitsipas, never mind the acknowledgment that “he’s a brilliant player” and “he’s great for the game.” Tellingly, he’s not alone in leveling accusations against the French Open finalist. Unless and until the rules change, however, shame is the only penalty — if at all. The bottom line remains: He’s going home. Meanwhile, the cause of his exasperation marches on.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.