Andy Murray on Monday won his first hardcourt match of the summer on Monday, defeating Stan Wawrinka 7-6 (7/3), 5-7, 7-5 in the opening round of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The 35-year-old Scot was facing his 37-year-old Swiss rival for the 22nd time with both treble Grand Slam champions still coming back to full form after long-term injuries over the past few seasons.
Murray lost in the first round at Washington and last week in Montreal, while Wawrinka’s last win came on grass two months ago at Queen’s Club, London; he has not won on cement since the Australian Open last year.
Photo: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY
Murray needed four match points to advance at a tournament he has won twice, in 2008 and 2011. The veteran was competing here for the 17th time.
“We’re not young anymore,” Murray said. “Both of us gave our best right until the end. Matches like this are a lot tougher than when we were in our mid-20s.”
Compatriot Cameron Norrie joined Murray in the second round with his 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-4 defeat of Dane Holger Rune.
The Scot began to well up as he described his love for the game.
“When I was out injured and not sure if I would be able to come back, I remembered the reasons why you play the game,” Murray said.
“It’s taken a lot of effort and struggles to get back [after two hip surgeries] and play at this level again. I want to make the most of it while I’m still able to.”
In the WTA draw, Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina defeated Egyptian Mayar Sherif 6-3, 6-2, for he world No. 25 to set up a second-round clash with eighth seed Garbine Muguruza, title-winner here in 2017.
The 23-year-old Kazakh lifted her game in the second set to end with five aces and 13 winners against Sharif.
“I was slow at the beginning, but I got my rhythm and served well,” Rybakina said. “But my serve always helps me.”
Iga Swiatek, who is to face the winner of yesterday’s match between Serena Williams and Emma Raducanu, told reporters that even as world No. 1, she is intimidated by Williams.
The top-ranked Pole said she had never worked up the nerve to speak with Williams in depth.
“It’s hard for me to make eye contact with Serena, there are always so many people surrounding her,” Swiatek said. “I’m quite shy so around her I’m like a kid in kindergarten.”
The American is due to retire sometime after the US Open, with Cincinnati set as her penultimate tournament. Swiatek did seem cautiously interested in a theoretical chance to play the legend with 23 Grand Slam titles should they somehow be drawn into the Open first round.
“It would be the last chance to play her,” Swiatek said. “I’d love to, if only to see how it is to face her on the other side of the net.”
Raducanu and Williams were to face each other on Monday until tournament organizers abruptly postponed the match, frustrating fans who had spent considerable money to travel to the event.
After the headline match was announced, tickets for the session quickly sold out, with some fans buying them at inflated prices to see Williams for possibly the last time.
A tournament spokesperson later said that the decision to postpone was “on account of a number of factors related to scheduling.”
Rather than announcing the switch outright and offering fans the option of a refund, on Sunday night the order of play for Monday simply omitted Williams and Raducanu.
“This is really frustrating, traveled across country on your advertising Serena would play Monday night! Last minute you swap order of play?! And bought tickets in 200 sections just for it, now may have to cancel flight if want to see it??!” fan Lee Hagy wrote on Twitter.
Late on Monday morning, Williams practiced on Court 16 in the shadow of Center Court. While fans expressed frustration, others were content with seeing Williams one last time.
“My husband and I bought tickets for today thinking that she was going to play today because I’ve got to get back to work tomorrow. Very disappointed, but I was happy that I got to see her at the practice,” Alicia Harris said. “I really just wanted to see her and I got what I came for.”
Additional reporting by The Guardian
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