US Open: Tsitsipas ‘sacrifices’ edge Murray thriller

 - Alex Sharp

Top contenders and major champions opened their US Open 2021 account, but not for the first time an Andy Murray epic stole the show.

Stefanos Tsitsipas / US Open 2021©Pete Staples / USTA

The US Open welcomed back fans to the grounds at Flushing Meadows and they were treated to a scorching first day of action in New York.

Even before the night session show, the drama had unfolded across the grounds with some pulsating performances. Settle in for a recap.

Tsitsipas prevails in psychological battle

The world No.3 against the 2012 champion. Stefanos Tsitsipas versus Andy Murray leapt off the draw sheets and certainly lived up to the billing on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Four hours and 49 minutes, it was an archetypal Murray tussle. The Scot proving he can still perform at the highest level despite several injury-ravaged seasons.

The match really had it all with the former world No.1 threatening a seismic shock, but Tsitsipas has now won a tour-leading 49 matches in 2021. The Greek would have lost this match in recent campaigns, illustrating he’s primed for a major move.

Ultimately the third seed secured a 2-6, 7-6(7), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory, relief etched across his face at match point.

"It did not come easy to turn the match around. I had to make a lot of sacrifices," stated Tsitsipas.

“Both of us gave an incredible quality of tennis today out there. The intensity was very high for both of us.

“I knew he's not going to give up. He's someone that I respect a lot. Someone I kind of looked up to when I was younger. I knew that things will get eventually difficult for me and I will have to withstand the amount of physicality that he's going to implement into the game.”

Fired up from the very start, former world No.1 Murray was packing plenty of punch into his shots, cajoling the crowd to get involved. Full-throttle tennis was the order.

The 34-year-old appeared on course for a two sets lead after a trademark backhand lob sent him 5-3 clear in the second set tie-break. However, Tsitsipas managed to sneak the vital points in some sublime net exchanges.

Murray, who held a 14-0 US Open first round record, was rolling back the years with his movement, out manoeuvring the Greek youngster to play a polished third set. Surely not?

Into the fourth set and Tsitsipas stepped it up – reaching the level he demonstrated as a Roland-Garros finalist earlier this summer.

“It really got mental and also very psychological at this point,” continued the 23-year-old, up against France’s Adrian Mannarino next.

“It was a game of patience, trying to come up with the best possible solution in moments that you had to think straight and have your mind clear.”

Osaka perspective provides purpose

Defending champion Naomi Osaka made a sharp start in the night session, breaking clear to oust 2014 girls’ champion Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-1.

The four-time Grand Slam winner motored ahead with seven successive games from 4-4, utilising her fierce forehands, striking 34 winners and dissolving all eight break points.

Job done.

The Japanese star, taking on Olga Danilovic next, described a “clearer mindset” on court having embraced a next perspective to be less self-critical.

“I think in this tournament I just want to be happy with knowing that I did my best and knowing that even though I didn't play perfect I was able to win a match in two sets, or if I have to battle, play a match in three sets, know that I made a couple mistakes, but it's okay at the end of the day because I'll learn from the matches that I'll keep playing,” reflected the 23-year-old, feeling more free in action.

“Honestly I didn't feel pressure today. I don't really know how to describe it. It may have to do with my mindset change. But I think I felt nerves because I wanted to perform well. I think in my mind I told myself that if I performed well, then the outcome, even if I win or lose, should be okay. I also felt like at the end of the day you train really hard to play in front of people, especially a night match in Ashe, it's the biggest stadium in tennis. I think that's why I felt nervous, but I definitely didn't feel any pressure.”

Around the grounds

World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka eventually proved her prowess 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-0 against Serbia’s Nina Stojanovic. The Belarusian hit 21 unforced errors in set two, but cleaned up her game with only eight errors in the decider to book a fascinating encounter with Tamara Zidansek.

Roland-Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova lost just four games to Australian youngster Astra Sharma, whilst the returning Simona Halep edged the in-form Camila Giorgi 6-4, 7-6(3).

Coco Gauff held off Magda Linette 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 to chalk up a blockbuster second round with 2017 champion Sloane Stephens. The American had squeezed past her close friend and compatriot Madison Keys in a third set tie-break.

20th seed Ons Jabeur had the answers 7-5, 7-5 to navigate past Alize Cornet to set up a clash with Colombian prodigy Maria Camila Osorio Serrano.

Medvedev motors to milestone


Seemingly flying under the radar, despite being the world No.2, Daniil Medvedev posted his 200th match win in the early hours of Tuesday morning with a clinical 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 scoreboard over Richard Gasquet.

His fellow Russian Andrey Rublev defied the bullet serves for 42-year-old qualifier Ivo Karlovic. The Croatian is now pondering retirement following his final Grand Slam singles match.

There was heartache for 2014 champion Marin Cilic, who was two sets up on Philipp Kohlschreiber, but became physically hampered on serve. Cilic was forced to retire in the fifth set for the first time in his career in his 838th match on tour.

Top ranked American John Isner was stunned 7-6(7), 7-6(6), 6-3 by his Next Gen countryman Brandon Nakashima. French hope Ugo Humbert was sent out in five sets by German qualifier Peter Gojowczyk. 18th seed Roberto Bautista Agut put in an efficient display 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 to breeze past Nick Kyrgios.