At certain moments in his first round US Open match against Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andy Murray looked every inch the player who had won three Grand Slams earlier in his career. It was hard to tell who was the number three seed at times, as Murray made Tsitsipas work for every single point. Fitness levels told in the end, and the Greek player seized the match to come from 2-1 down to win in five sets. Murray is out, but the nature of his performance gives hope that a return to tennis’ top table might not be out of reach for the Scot.
It’s probably fair to say that Tsitsipas did not expect Murray to be quite so competitive, and the pattern of the first set suggested that the 23-year-old was expecting a comfortable afternoon. Instead, Murray powered his way into the lead and won the opening set 6-2, leaving the Greek with plenty of thinking to do. Tsitsipas survived two set points in the second set to win the tiebreak, before Murray again struck to win the third 6-2. From there, Tsitsipas found his form, and won the last two sets 6-3 6-4 to claim his place in the second round and preserve his standing in the US Open odds.
Rolling back the years
For the first three sets, Murray gave a fascinating throwback to his glory days. Attacking the Tsitsipas serve with his trademark vicious returns, serving consistently to hammer home his advantage, and displaying the kind of composure which defined the Scot’s best days on the court. Indeed, Murray could have had the match wrapped up in three sets, if he had made those set points count in the second-set tiebreak.
While he flagged slightly in the end, there was enough to suggest that Murray can still mix it with the big hitters in professional tennis, in spite of all the injury setbacks he has suffered throughout his career. If he can build on this performance, who’s to say there couldn’t yet be one last hurrah in a Grand Slam down the line.
Murray was frustrated with some of Tsitsipas’ behaviour during the match, which the Scot felt amounted to gamesmanship. The main point of contention was after the fourth set, when the Greek player took an eight-minute toilet break, which Murray felt made him cool down somewhat at a critical juncture of the match.
“It’s not so much leaving the court. It’s the amount of time,” the 34-year-old seethed. “It’s nonsense and he knows it. 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.”
In the end, it must be borne in mind that Tsitsipas is one of the best players in the world at the moment, and is one of the contenders to win the tournament according to the US Open betting tips. The fact that Murray was able to go toe-to-toe with him and match him in every department is an encouraging sign.
Since his comeback, Murray has been unlucky at times with difficult early-round draws. If a favourable draw comes his way in a Grand Slam, and he can produce the form he showed against Tsitsipas, Murray could well prove his enduring class.