WASHINGTON, August 4, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)
After a week of rain wreaking havoc to the Citi Open schedule that’s been punctuated by numerous weather delays, in which playing past midnight has been the norm and not the exception, perhaps the biggest thunder storm of the week came early Friday evening when former World No. 1 Andy Murray withdrew from the ATP 500 tournament, citing fatigue.
The announcement, confirmed by the ATP, came just hours ahead of Murray’s scheduled quarterfinal against #NextGenATP star Alex de Minaur of Australia, who now finds himself advanced to Saturday’s semifinals by a walkover. Murray has also withdrawn from next week’s Masters 1000 Rogers Cup in Toronto. (His main draw wild card was given to Stan Wawrinka).
Murray released the following statement through the ATP:
“I won’t be able to play my match tonight. I’m exhausted after playing so much over the last four days, having not competed on the hard courts for 18 months. I also need to be careful and to listen to my body as I come back from a long-term injury. I’m gutted not to be playing and I’d like to thank the tournament and all the fans. There are lots of positives to take from this week, so I’ll take some time to rest and recover (I won’t play in Toronto next week) and then head to Cincinnati early to prepare and get ready.”
In response, Citi Open tournament director Keely O’Brien thanked Murray, stating: “I am so grateful that Andy, an incredible champion, came back to D.C. to begin what we all know will be a great comeback. I sincerely respect his decision and know that his health and recovery process is his top priority, as it should be. We all wish him great success for the rest of the summer and look forward to him coming back to Washington next year.”
And this is what it means to @andy_murray to be back playing and winning epic matches in the sport he loves! 🇬🇧
— British Tennis (@BritishTennis) 3. August 2018
Looking back, just what was going through Andy Murray’s mind at 3 a.m. Friday morning as he sat alone court side in his chair, emotionally overwhelmed, a scene we’ve never witnessed from him before? We may never know; we can’t read his mind. But Murray, with maybe a hundred spectators remaining in the Stadium as witnesses, made an incredibly powerful statement. After months of undergoing grueling rehabilitation in order to make his hard court return this week in Washington, D.C., Murray, if anyone, knows what’s best for his body.
Sometimes, winning is just being back on the tennis court, which Murray displayed during his matches against Mackenzie McDonald, Kyle Edmund and Marius Copil at the Citi Open, in just his third tournament since undergoing hip surgery in January. Each provided a different test for the proud and articulate Scot, who arrived ranked 832nd and will leave 361st, an improvement of 471 places. The Washington crowds were supportive of him throughout each of his matches, all of them played on the Stadium court.
“What we can hope is that it’s Murray being precautionary with his body and making sure that coming back from his surgery and getting in a lot of tennis this week – three matches with three sets (8 hours and 11 minutes on court) – that he’s making sure that everything is progressing,” said Tennis Channel analyst Jim Courier, who commented on Murray’s three-hour, third-round win over Copil that ended at 3:01 a.m. local time Friday morning. “He’s taking the long view.”
Murray, 31, who was playing in his first tour-level event since Eastbourne in June, came back from a set down against Copil and pulled out a grueling 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-6 (4) win. After the two players embraced each other at the net, Murray returned to his bench, exhausted, and draped a towel over his head. He could be seen and heard sobbing uncontrollably for several minutes, which was poignantly captured by TV cameras. Whether Murray was seeing his tennis mortality, only he can address that for certain.
“Last night was a remarkable scene – haunting in many ways but also inspiring – to see somebody who cares so much about the sport express it,” said Courier, during Friday evening’s Tennis Channel broadcast.
“We don’t get to see what these athletes go through on the road back from these traumas that they’ve suffered to their bodies,” Courier added. “This was a big window into the road that he’s traveled to get back here. That’s certainly I think what was part of the emotion, realizing that he at least had gotten himself back in a place to where he could feel that competitive fire. He showed it all week long. The roar he gave after his first match was very special as well. Murray wears his heart on his sleeve.
“Andy cares about tennis. Even when he’s not playing, he’s following it and commenting on it on social media. He’s in it for life. It was special to be here and witness it last night.”
Tsitsipas, Zverev advance to semifinals
Once again, the familiar pattern of rain showers hit the Rock Creek Park Tennis Center throughout Friday afternoon and into the evening. It interrupted both of the men’s quarterfinals that were completed, won by No. 10 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece and defending champion and top seed Alexander Zverev of Germany. It also postponed the remaining quarterfinal scheduled for the evening between Denis Kudla of the U.S. and No. 16 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia, which never got started and was called off at 9:45 p.m. It has been rescheduled for noon Saturday with the winner returning to play de Minaur not before 7 p.m. Saturday night.
The 19-year-old Tsitsipas took out No. 3 seed David Goffin of Belgium, 6-3, 6-4, in one hour and 14 minutes to reach his third tour-level semifinal of the year. It prompted some to ask: Is the week that the #NextGenATP Greek breaks through to win his first ATP World Tour title? Stay tuned.
“I played very well from beginning to end,” said the 32nd-ranked Tsitsipas during his post-match press conference. “I managed to break him early, stayed concentrated on my serve, which was very important that I didn’t get broken today. In general, it was a very good match and I really enjoyed myself out there.”
Meanwhile, Zverev continued his quest to win back to back Citi Open titles by rallying for a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 win over No. 7 seed Kei Nishikori. The pair met in last year’s semifinals. Their match was delayed for more than two hours with Zverev leading 3-2, up a break, in the third set.
Refuse to lose. 💪
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) 4. August 2018
“It was great. It was a fantastic match, a very high level from the baseline,” said Zverev, as reported by the ATP World Tour website. “We both played great, so happy to be through to the semifinals. Hopefully, it will be another good few days here.”
Tsitsipas will play Zverev in Saturday’s first semifinal not before 2 p.m. It will be their first career meeting. “Hopefully, it’s going to be entertaining,” said Zverev, who is defending 500 points this week and will retain his World No. 3 ranking with a win over Tsitsipas. “He’s been playing great this year. But to me, nothing changes. I want to go out there and I want to try to win.”
Petkovic dances into semifinals
One women’s quarterfinal in the WTA International portion of the Citi Open was completed as Andrea Petkovic of Germany booked a berth into the semifinals with a 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (8) win against No. 6 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland. Petkovic has been very successful in three-set matches this year, winning eight of 12. She saved three match points in the third set. Although Bencic won more points – 105-102 – her 12 double faults contributed to her defeat.