On a day of upsets at the US Open, none was bigger than the shock loss of Andy Murray as the lackluster Scot was sent off by Stan Wawrinka 6-7, 7-6, 7-6, 6-3 in the third round Sunday.
Murray, who was tabbed by many as the favorite to win his first Slam title this week after an impressive summer showing, seemed to be back in that funk we saw from him in the early spring. And Murray had little explanation for it.
“He played better than me,” said Murray who had treatment on his leg/quad during the match. “There’s not a whole lot more to it. He had a chance to win the first set; didn’t take it. I had a chance to win the second set; didn’t take it. I just struggled from then on.
“I didn’t think it was a terrible performance today,” he added. “I don’t think I played terribly. Very different playing against a guy like in my second round than playing a guy like Wawrinka. He’s a much better player.”
In the end though it was another Murray loss at a Slam he was targeted to win or at the very least do well in. After reaching the US Open finals in 2008, the Murray trajectory is in decline, losing in the fourth round last year and now this third round stunner.
And the British pressure of having to win that first Major is not going away.
“I have no idea of whether I’ll win a Grand Slam or not,” Murray said. “You know, I want to. But, you know, I mean, if I never win one, then what? If I give a hundred percent, try my best, physically work as hard as I can, practice as much as I can, then that’s all I can do, you know. It’s something I would love to do. It’s a very difficult thing. But, uhm, I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ll win a Grand Slam or not. But I’ll give it my best shot.”
Credit to Wawrinka, who rightfully attacked Murray’s short, defensive offerings and the Swiss came up with magnificent shots, especially off the backhand. I thought Wawrinka would put up a hardy fight against Murray, and he did, I just didn’t expect him to win in four sets!
“I think the serve was one of the key of the match, for sure,” said Stan who improves to 4-5 against Murray. “I served pretty well. Beginning of the second set was not really good, but then I think that help me a lot to get some free points. It’s always important against that kind of player. But, no, I think all my game was pretty good. One of my best match, for sure. I was very aggressive. I was doing everything really good. So I’m very happy.”
Murray’s loss wasn’t the only surprise on the day, another “summer star”. After a torrid August stretch, hopes were high that the mercurial David Nalbandian had re-found his form just in time for a deep US Open run. But those hopes were dashed yesterday when the Argentine was bounced by Fernando Verdasco 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Verdasco’s win connects him with countrymen Rafael Nadal, Feliciano Lopez and his next opponent, David Ferrer, who are all in the same “Spanish Quarter” of the draw.
“It’s always nice to see all the Spanish winning and being in the last rounds, no?” Verdasco said. “So if you need to lose, it’s better to lose against a Spanish player, then at least one guy is gonna be there one round more, no? I’m happy. I hope to play good also the next round, keep doing my work and my job as better as possible. Trying to play the best to be in the quarterfinals like last year.”
The other big upset on the day hit the tour’s big man, 6-foot-9 John Isner, who wasn’t on his game in a disappointing 6-4, 6-7(7), 7-6(5), 6-4 loss Sunday night.
Youhzny very nearly choked the match away after blowing a 5-2 second set lead. But the former US Open semifinalist regrouped and broke Big John five times to win in four sets.
“I just didn’t have the pop I needed on my shots,” said Isner who beat Andy Roddick in this round a year ago. “I wasn’t able to get to the balls like I thought I should have. You know, certain shots, running around a forehand, coming up late, hitting them late. So, yeah, I was a little bit fatigued. But with that being said, you know, I gave myself every chance to compete in this tournament, ’cause two weeks ago it didn’t look good at all, so… Yeah, I just didn’t feel that that great out there.”
Spain wasn’t done on the day. Tommy Robredo recorded his second straight retirement victory when Michael Llodra withdrew with an illness in the fourth set. But Nicolas Almagro wasn’t as fortunate as he got hammered by Sam Querrey in straight sets. The American now gets Wawrinka on Tuesday.
As for the women, Grand Slam champions Venus Williams, Kim Clijsters and Francesca Schiavone all marched on in relative ease. In the late evening/early morning, Sam Stosur saved four matchpoints to turn away the hardluck Elena Dementieva 6-3, 2-6, 7-6(2). I didn’t catch any of the match but reports suggest it was a good one.
Looking at today’s busy schedule, first to the men.
Novak Djokovic tries for his fifth straight win over Mardy Fish, and I think today the Serb gets it. Unquestionably, Fish is playing the best tennis of his life but at the same time after two five setters in three matches and following the long summer I think the American has to be weary. And if Novak is poised, awake and on his game he just has too much firepower for Fish. For me the serve is the key to this match and player who serving the best should win.
Roger Federer clashes with yet another lefty, this time French Open semifinalist Jurgen Melzer in the evening, and I think Federer should roll in that one. In similar fashion, Robin Soderling should take care of the overreaching Albert Montanes with comfort.
Also, in maybe the most interesting men’s match my man Gael Monfils takes on his countryman Richard Gasquet. The talented Gasquet has blitzed the field thus far and I think his form and offensive playing style takes him past Le Monf.
But the big match on the Labor Day holiday schedule belongs to the women. In a much-anticipated battle of the blondes, top seed Caroline Wozniacki squares off against former US Open champion Maria Sharapova for a quarterfinal berth (and really a spot in the final opposite Clijsters if you look at the draw). Wozniacki has dropped just three games entering the match while Maria’s booked her fourth round spot with a double bagel. So both are well in form.
Head-to-head, Sharapova leads 2-0 winning both meetings in 2008 and in straight sets. But Caroline is a different player now.
That said, a lot has been made about Wozniacki’s lack of big wins, especially in Majors, and her inflated ranking thanks to titles at the smaller events. Well, now the World No. 2 has the chance to prove her detractors wrong.
For Sharapova, a win today puts her back in the conversation of players who can win Slams going forward. Questions still remain for Maria after her shoulder surgery, but this year she’s shown that old winning form, and a win today would really tell me, at least, that she’s back.
And I think Maria’s offensive-minded game defeats the defensive ways of Wozniacki. I am looking forward to this one.
CBS is again on the afternoon today. ESPN2 takes over in the evening.
MONDAY US OPEN SCHEDULE
Arthur Ashe Stadium 11:00 AM
Svetlana Kuznetsova(RUS) vs. Dominika Cibulkova(SVK)
Mardy Fish(USA) vs. Novak Djokovic(SRB)
Caroline Wozniacki(DEN) vs. Maria Sharapova(RUS)
Andrea Petkovic(GER) vs. Vera Zvonareva(RUS)
Jurgen Melzer(AUT) vs. Roger Federer(SUI)
Louis Armstrong Stadium 11:00 AM
Richard Gasquet(FRA) vs. Gael Monfils(FRA)
Kaia Kanepi(EST) vs. Yanina Wickmayer(BEL)
Robin Soderling(SWE) vs. Albert Montanes(ESP)
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