Andy Murray lived up to his pre-tournament prediction that he would not win this year’s US Open when he was beaten 7-5 2-6 6-4 6-4 by Spain’s Fernando Verdasco in the second round on Wednesday. The former-world number one and 2012 US Open champion, who is still working his way back from hip surgery and had earlier downplayed his chances, battled Verdasco for nearly three hours and 30 minutes before finally surrendering on a fourth match point while trying to force a fifth set.
“I think some of the tennis I played today was some of the best I’ve played since I had the surgery or since I came back,” said Murray. “But there were also periods in the match, especially in the first set where I really didn’t play particularly well. “Then kind of at the end when my back was against the wall, I came up with some good tennis to make it close and interesting.”
Playing in just his fifth event since hip surgery in January, what Murray lacked in sharpness he more than made up for in gritty determination as the 31-year-old battled through a gruelling opening set that lasted 62 minutes. Drenched in sweat, Murray slowly began to find his comfort zone in the sauna like conditions taking the second to level the match.
But Verdasco would not be rattled and dominated large chunks of play until the end of the clash, when Murray dug in and the 31st seeded Spaniard struggled to seal the match. “It was tough of course to close the match,” said Verdasco, after collecting just his second win in 15 matches against Murray and his first in nine years.
“With Andy it is always tough. He is an … unbelievable fighter.” Verdasco will face yet another former-US Open champion in the third round in big-hitting Argentine Juan Martin del Potro, who was a 6-3 6-1 7-6(4) winner over American Denis Kudla. Murray, meanwhile, leaves Flushing Meadows with all signs pointing he is headed in the right direction.
“It’s still quite early in this process for me,” said Murray. “I did all right. I chased balls down right to the end of the match. I wasn’t giving up on points. “But you just don’t know exactly what’s round the corner.
“If things keep going smoothly, physically I continue to improve, I believe that I will get back to competing for the biggest competitions because there’s no reason why I couldn’t.
John Isner outlasts Nicolas Jarry to reach third round
Home fans rose to acclaim John Isner after he fought back to vanquish Chilean Nicolas Jarry 6-7(7) 6-4 3-6 7-6(2) 6-4 in a five-set, second-round thriller at the US Open on Wednesday. Isner relied on his power serve, delivering 38 aces in the match to surpass Roger Federer with the second-most career aces, ATP statistics showed. Isner appeared to feed off the crowd’s energy in the fifth set and thanked them for helping him across the line.
“This right here is what the US Open is all about,” said Isner. “I couldn’t have won this match without the support of you guys,” he added, gesturing to the crowd. Isner later told reporters that the match had been a struggle “from the get-go” but that overall he was pleased with his performance throughout the year.
“I’m certainly very confident. I’ve had a very good year,” Isner said. “I mean, probably the best year of my career. Doing that at 33 is pretty cool.” The three hour and 38-minute match was comparatively light work for marathon man Isner, who in July lost a six hour and 36-minute Wimbledon semi-final to South Africa’s Kevin Anderson and in 2010 won an 11 hour and five-minute match against Nicolas Mahut at the All England Club.
Isner next faces Serbian Dusan Lajovic, who beat Briton Cameron Norrie, for a place in the fourth round.
Juan Martin Del Potro overwhelms Kudla in ominous power play
Argentine Juan Martin del Potro overpowered American Denis Kudla 6-3 6-1 7-6(4) in the US Open second round on Wednesday, delivering a near flawless performance and serving notice that the injury-plagued 2009 champion is in top form. Showing no ill-effects from the wrist injuries that have dogged him in recent years, Del Potro thumped down 20 aces, won 85 percent of his first-serve points and never faced a break point in a match lasting less than two hours.
By the time the overwhelmed Kudla began to find his form in the third set it was too little too late. The world number 72 held serve six times to set up the third-set tiebreaker and fended off three match points but despite the backing of the New York crowd, he sent a backhand wide to punch Del Potro’s ticket to the third round.
Next up for Del Potro is either Briton Andy Murray or Spaniard Fernando Verdasco.
Kevin Anderson defeats Chardy and rolls into third round
Fifth-seed Kevin Anderson advanced to the third round of the US Open on Wednesday with a 6-2 6-4 6-4 victory over France’s Jeremy Chardy. The match was a relative sprint compared to the four hour, 14 minute-long first round match that Anderson endured on Monday when he fought back to beat American Ryan Harrison.
Anderson used his superior height and wing span to pick off Chardy’s shots and deliver blisteringly fast serves, but was not immune to the sweltering conditions plaguing competitors on the outdoor courts. “It was pretty hot out here today, so the ball was flying around,” Anderson said in an on-court interview. “Overall I felt I played a great match.”
Nadal eases past Pospisil to reach U.S. Open third round
Defending champion Rafa Nadal eased into the third round of the U.S. Open with a regulation 6-3 6-4 6-2 victory over unseeded Vasek Pospisil on Wednesday.
A fresh-looking Nadal, whose first round match was cut short after opponent David Ferrer retired with a calf injury midway through the second set, started brightly against the Canadian and never looked back.
The top-seeded Spaniard wrapped up the opening set in 35 minutes after breaking early to go 3-0 up as Pospisil, ranked 88th in the world, struggled to settle into a serving rhythm.
The Canadian rallied briefly in the second set, improving his first serve percentage and managing to break Nadal to lead briefly, but the world number one broke back immediately and went on to win four games in a row to seize complete control.
“In the second set I had two games in a row where I had trouble with my serve,” Nadal said in a courtside interview. “The first one I saved, the second one I couldn’t. I was lucky to be able to break back.
“To win in straight sets is always positive.”
Nadal started the third set on the front foot, breaking early once again as Pospisil ran out of steam. The Spaniard wrapped the contest in exactly two hours, and will next face Russian prospect Karen Khachanov, the 27th seed.
Playing his second night match in a row, Nadal looked a lot more comfortable in the muggy conditions than he did against Ferrer, who was down a set but up a break against his fellow Spaniard when he was forced to retire in the first round.
The weather has been one of the main talking points of the first week at Flushing Meadows, with high temperatures and humidity forcing organisers to impose “extreme heat” rules to give the players some relief.
The 32-year-old Nadal said he was looking forward to the end of the week, when rain is expected.
“We’ll be able to see better tennis than what we saw first couple of days of the U.S. Open,” added the 17 times Grand Slam champion.
“Playing under these conditions is, first thing, not healthy, and second thing, is not good for nobody — not good for the fans, not good for the players. The show is a little bit worse under these conditions.”