Much has been made of Andy Murray's struggles this season, but he showed his dominance yet again in the opening round of the 2014 U.S. Open. Murray trudged through a 6-3, 7-6 (6), 1-6, 7-5 victory over Robin Haase in Flushing Meadows Monday to advance.
After going winless in Grand Slams thus far in 2014, the British player has a lot to prove during the final major. BBC Sport and US Open Tennis provide a look at the opening-round win for Murray:
Early dominance was replaced by question marks about Murray's health late in the match. Murray struggled in the third and fourth sets, appearing to have cramps after a quick start.
ESPN Tennis referenced Murray's potential cramps during the final sets:
Murray spoke about his injury with ESPN's Tom Rinaldi following the match, via the ESPN broadcast:
"I started cramping at the beginning of the third set," Murray said. "I don't know exactly what caused it, but ... it was down in my traps a little bit and my forearms were not particularly comfortable. I just tried to hang around as best as I could and managed to get through.
"I didn't know whether to go for it in the third or try to conserve energy. ... It was tough, but it was also tough for Robin, too."
The two-time Grand Slam winner came in as a No. 8 seed after a poor season thus far. Despite winning the 2012 U.S. Open, he has been overlooked in favor of both Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
While his recent performance has been shaky, Murray showed confidence coming into the tournament. He spoke about his play prior to the match, per Piers Newbery of BBC:
I have been playing well the last few weeks. I lost to guys who had won the events, and had quite big opportunities in both those matches.
I feel like I'm playing well. This week has been very good preparation. I'm happy and I feel ready to start the tournament.
That preparation would be tested late in the match, but the early going was strong for Murray.
Murray showed some of that renewed confidence in the first set against Haase. He took control over the Dutch player with three aces and winning two break points in the opening set.
Along with his aces, Murray's overall serving game was strong early on. He triumphed on 12 of 14 first-serve points to take control in the first set. But that wasn't entirely telling of the first set as he also registered five double faults.
One of the longest points in the match was shared by U.S. Open Tennis:
While he cut down on the double faults, Murray had to pull out a much closer second set.
It was Haase that had the more dominant serve in the second set as he pulled out four aces and went 22-of-25 on first-serve points. But even after pushing him to a tiebreak, Haase was unable to defeat Murray as he took a 2-0 lead.
The struggles with consistency had tennis analyst Nick Bollettieri questioning his staying power, per BBC Tennis:
The questioning of his play would continue in the third set as Murray struggled yet again.
After going down early, Murray was unable to rally and overtake Haase, getting crushed by a final of 6-1. The 27-year-old had 15 unforced errors and looked to be in pain throughout the third set.
Ben Rothenberg of The New York Times and ESPN UK point out the scuffling third set for Murray:
The fourth set was extremely similar for Murray in the early going as he fell behind 4-1 before staging a slight comeback. Constantly stretching and grimacing on the court, Murray found some resurgence in the fourth set to narrow the lead for Haase at 4-3.
Even after the slight rally, Murray had his serve broken by Haase in the following game. But the No. 8 seed wouldn't go down quietly as he won the next three games over Haase to knot the score up at 6-5.
That final score was a testament to the willpower of Murray on the court. His athleticism wasn't apparent against Haase during the final sets of the match, but he still found a way to advance to the next round.
John McEnroe's thoughts on the match were shared by Hannah Storm of ESPN:
Bollettieri also had an interesting take on the overall play for the British player:
Following the win over Haase, Murray will face Matthias Bachinger. After Bachinger beat Radek Stepanek, who recently defeated Murray 7-6 (10), 6-2 in the Aegon Championships, he likely comes in with confidence.
As for the remainder of the tournament, Sky Sports provides a look at the potential path for Murray:
With Stepanek out, that second-round matchup still looks like a daunting one for Murray.
Before he gets to the likes of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Djokovic or Federer, Murray will have to survive in the early rounds against ambitious opponents. Murray also needs to find much more consistency on the court and cut down on double faults.
If he returns to the court healthy against Bachinger, Murray will once again look like a contender at the U.S. Open. But if he can't shake the potential cramps he dealt with in the opening round, an upset might be possible for Bachinger over one of the top players in the world.
After downing Haase in the opener, it will take a strong run for Murray to win the third Grand Slam of his career. But thanks to his talent, anything is possible for Murray on the U.S. Open stage.
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