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Andy Murray wins five-set marathon in exchange for the US Open

NEW YORK – There were no fans in the seats chanting his name, no electricity emanating from that sea of ​​empty seats and no energy to be gained anywhere else but deep within himself, where Andy Murray once again has found the grit that has been the trademark of his career.

After losing the first two sets of his first-round singles match at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday at the US Open, Murray, ranked No. 115, mounted a ferocious comeback by defeating Yoshihito Nishioka 4-6, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4), 6-4.

“It was really special to go through,” said Murray, who followed No. 49 on the Nishioka, 24, by two sets and a break and eliminated the match point in the fourth set. “I didn’t play my best. There was no one there to watch. It was a long five set, my first in a long time. So yeah, it was a big effort to pass.”

It was great but not atypical. When it was all over, Murray, 33, collapsed in his sideline chair, took off his sweat-soaked wristbands and flung them to the ground. He punctuated the gesture with a prolonged bellow of satisfaction. He then carefully filled a plastic bag with debris around the chair, including nine empty 25.3-ounce water bottles.

Fan? Who needs fans?

Three-time Grand Slam champion Murray’s career was compromised by hip pain not long after he finished 2016 as ATP No. 1. She has since undergone two hip surgeries and a series of false starts but has never lost hope.

Murray, who in the second round will face Felix Auger-Aliassime, a 20-year-old Canadian, 15th seeded, has decided to travel to New York and play in this US Open, part of a two-tournament doubleheader that marks the official return of the ATP Tour. The champion here in 2012, Murray wanted to play pain free and have fun.

“When I talked to my team a couple of months ago, that was really all I wanted – to hopefully get to the US Open feeling pretty pain-free so I could go out and play and have fun again in a Grand Slam,” he said. said. She said.

Joy had very little influence on Murray’s first game on the familiar ground of Arthur Ashe Stadium. He underwent grueling physical and emotional torment for more than four and a half hours, but unlike in recent years, he was delighted with the result.

“For the past three years, I wasn’t particularly happy playing tennis because I was unhappy, and it was uncomfortable, and my body hurt. I wasn’t feeling well,” Murray said. “Now … I’m not sitting here with my hip throbbing and aching. I can sleep well tonight and things like that. Yes, my quality of life is significantly better.”

Murray got help late in the game from an unexpected source: the number of players who gathered to watch him struggle to get back. Seeded players here have been given the use of luxury boxes to get in on the action. Among those who have been forced by the ongoing saga: the first two male suits, Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem, and Venus Williams.

Williams’ game followed Murray’s, and she didn’t mind having to wait to take the field while Murray rebelled.

“Usually when you are waiting for a game [and] someone is two sets down, cheer on the person who is leading so you can get on and off, ” Williams said.

“I was rooting for Andy the whole time. I really wanted him to win,” Williams said. “Damn, when he was down in the third set, I thought, ‘Okay!’ I was just cheering for him so hard. ”

Murray appreciated the support.

“I was saying it for myself [that] it was one of the things that helped, “Murray said.” It is rare that you have many players watching your game. In a way this can be a bit annoying if you look up and you have guys who are in the top five, top ten in the world looking at you and stuff like that. “

This time, due to the lack of fans, those faces were less distracting and more uplifting, as were the presence of Murray’s father-in-law and brother Jamie, a double specialist. Others who are not participating in this tournament due to the limit of staff allowed on site in this controlled environment have contacted Murray from long distances.

“When I’m back in the locker room, I look at my phone, I see messages from family and friends, the team and everything,” Murray said. “They are the people who have seen me go through everything, have been there, have seen the difficult moments. I don’t know how many of us really believed that I would go back to winning games like that.”

One player who can enjoy Murray’s journey perhaps as much as anyone else is Andrey Kuznetsov, a 29-year-old Russian who lost around 2.5 years to a hip injury. Kuznetsov knocked out Sam Querrey 6-4, 7-5 (6), 6-2, becoming the first unranked man to win a Grand Slam match from Nicolas Kiefer at Wimbledon in 2007.

Kuznetsov completed his long comeback with his first tour-level win since 2017. He returned to play last month at a Challenger event in Prague and lost his only match after a two-year and seven-month layoff due to hip.

Also on Tuesday, Sumit Nagal became the first Indian man in seven years to win a game at the US Open. The New Delhi resident beat Bradley Klahn 6-1, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. Nagal, 23, finished at number 124 on the world rankings.

Wild card JJ Wolf pulled out a reversal, beating Guido Pella 29th seeded 6-2, 0-6, 6-3, 6-3. 21-year-old Wolf is on the main draw for the first time. Pella reached round three of the US Open in 2018 and round three of the Australian Open earlier this year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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