Winning, now thereÈs a tricky business_
Originally published on 01/09/15
And like that Nick Kyrgios was gone, bowing out of this year’s US Open with a one-match highlight reel that most players couldn’t produce in a fortnight. He hot-dogged, ripped forehands, leapt into drop shots, lost his racket, tossed his racket, cracked his racket, picked up a code violation, brought the crowd to their feet, changed his socks, ditched his sleeve and provided his own commentary on the entire affair.
At the other end, Murray went about his business. Content to deal with whatever leftfield assault the Australian may dream up next – it’s a well-stocked box of tricks – the two-time champion executed his gameplan: slice into the forehand to stop Kyrgios unloading on a high ball, and vary the pace and placement.
Just as it had for Tommy Robredo a year ago in New York, the scheme worked perfectly against the young Aussie. With mentor Lleyton Hewitt in the stands, Kyrgios battled his rolling monologue to stay in touch with Murray, but could not find his mark when it mattered. Seven break points went begging in the second set, and while he took his first set in 11 against Murray in the third, the effort it had taken – mostly psychological, it would seem – took its toll in the fourth as Murray scampered to a 7-5 6-3 4-6 6-1 victory.
“I feel old – I know I’m not old but I feel old,” said Murray, 28, explaining why he was almost looking forward to the ice bath after the match. The former champion will face France’s Adrian Mannarino in the second round.
Three in, three out
Murray aside, it was a so-so day in New York for British tennis fans. After Heather Watson’s departure on Monday, Laura Robson bowed out against Elena Vesnina 4-6 6-3 7-5 after coming within two points of her first main-draw victory in almost two years.
First, the positives: Vesnina is no slouch, and on another scorcher at Flushing Meadows Robson went toe-to-toe with her until the end, a testament to her rediscovered fitness and returning form. But match sharpness – and toughness – cost her when it came to finishing the job, spurning a 4-0 lead in the decider; then, having fired herself up when victory appeared within her grasp at 4-5 in the third, she collapsed when the chance slipped away.
While Robson and Watson exited at the first hurdle, Johanna Konta continues to fly the flag in the women’s draw after reaching the second round in New York for a second time. Fresh from back-to-back Canadian Challenger wins in Granby and Vancouver, the 24-year-old downed American Louisa Chirico with ease, 6-3 6-0, to set up a showdown with Wimbledon finalist Garbine Muguruza – who Konta beat at Eastbourne earlier this season.
On the men’s side James Ward failed to get a foothold in his opener against left-hander Thomaz Bellucci, falling to the Brazilian 6-1 7-5 6-3, Ward’s ninth consecutive defeat since Wimbledon. Aljaz Bedene ensured there would be two Britons in the men’s second round, advancing after Ernests Gulbis retired with a wrist injury while trailing 3-6 6-4 3-0. The former Slovenian national will face Donald Young in round two.
A dozen drop
A record 12 players retired during the first round of this year’s US Open, the most for a single round in history. Seven quit on Monday, five Tuesday; 10 from the men’s draw, two in the women’s.
While Gulbis’s sudden concession stunned Bedene, Thanasi Kokkinakis endured a slow, agonising grind to a halt against Richard Gasquet as cramp set in while the teenager led by two sets to one. The warning signs arrived early in the fourth set, and as Gasquet secured a 3-2 lead with a break Kokkinakis called for the trainer. After a rubdown he returned but, like Vasek Pospisil – who found himself in the same situation on Monday – could barely move, attempting to hit anything in his wingspan for a winner.
Pospisil soldiered to the last and even nicked a game, but there was to be no ceremonial match point for Gasquet. When the Frenchman secured a break at the start of the fifth Kokkinakis obliterated his racket before hobbling to the net and conceding the match, a shot at the biggest win of his career lost to dehydration.
Ironically, Lleyton Hewitt – the retiring Aussie – advanced courtesy of the retirement of Aleksandr Nedovyesov. He will face potential Davis Cup teammate Bernard Tomic in the next round.
Marcos Baghdatis quit midway through the fourth set against Belgium’s Steve Darcis, who will now face No.2 seed Roger Federer after the Swiss’ 6-1 6-2 6-2 cruise against Leonardo Mayer. The women’s No.2 seed Simona Halep was handed her spot in the second round by Marina Erakovic, who withdrew with an ankle injury.
Wednesday’s ones to watch
Madison Keys v Tereza Smitkova
Smitkova’s tear-fuelled fourth round run at Wimbledon in 2014 put her on the map but the Czech is still skirting the edges of the WTA Tour. Keys, in contrast, has been one of the standout American performers under Lindsay Davenport in 2015: top billing on Ashe is just reward.
Mardy Fish v Feliciano Lopez
What could possibly, and quite probably, be Fish’s last match as a professional will be an emotional occasion whether he wins or loses to the No.18 seed on Armstrong.
Milos Raonic v Fernando Verdasco
News filtered through on Tuesday that Raonic had cancelled practice to rest his back before facing Verdasco, a player he splits a 3-3 win-loss record with heading into the second round clash.