Ymer Stuns Murray In Washington Opener

Mikael Ymer (photo: Ryan Loco/Citi Open)

WASHINGTON, August 2, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

At the conclusion of their two-hour and 50-minute marathon of a first-round match at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. Monday evening, Great Britain’s Andy Murray looked gassed. Playing in 85-degree heat with relative humidity that made it feel like 91, will do that – even to the most seasoned professionals. Meanwhile, Mikael Ymer of Sweden, who at age 23 is 12 years Murray’s junior, looked like he could last another set in his Citi Open debut.

On opening day of the ATP 500 event at Rock Creek Park Tennis Center in the nation’s capital city, Ymer provided the upset of the day. The 115th-ranked Ymer from Sweden eliminated No. 50 Murray 7-6 (8), 4-6, 6-1 on the Stadium court to move into the second round against No. 15 seed Aslan Karatsev of Russia on Wednesday.

There were plenty of twists and turns – just like there are in running a marathon – but Ymer did his best to avoid the most danger while staying on course. It was the young Swede’s first match on a hard court since February. Fortunately for Ymer – but much to the dismay of Murray – he didn’t forget how to succeed on it.

“I’m excited. It was the first day [of the U.S. swing], so obviously a lot left to do,” the soft-spoken Ymer said during his on-court interview. “But it’s a very good start of the American swing.”

During a 97-point opening set that stretched out to an hour and 20 minutes, Ymer persevered in the heat and humidity the best and saved four set points en route to winning a 10-8 tie-break. Ymer raised his level when he needed to the most while Murray was left stretching his legs and agonizing over missed opportunities.

Although Murray garnered a burst of energy and rebounded in the second set, winning five of the last six games, Ymer broke Murray early in the third set – looking refreshed and invigorated – and jumped ahead 4-0. While Ymer was broken in the next game, he got the break back and beat Murray on his first match point.

During his post-match press conference, Tennis TourTalk asked Murray if there’s something positive that can come out of this loss that he could take forward with the US Open fast approaching. He replied: “Well, I mean, the only positive is now that I get more time to prepare for the tournament in Canada. I guess if I can address sort of the physical issue I’ve had the last couple of tournaments, then that would be a positive thing. I obviously need to address that now. The conditions are difficult also in Canada, Cincinnati and New York.

“Yeah, I mean, right now I’m not seeing lots of positives. I arrived here early to try and prepare as best as I could to give myself a chance to play well. Obviously, I feel like I could have done better.”

Other British men fare better than Murray

The British men fared better on the outer courts as Kyle Edmund and Jack Draper each won their first-round matches. First, Edmund earned his first ATP Tour win in 29 months after defeating Japanese qualifier Yosuke Watanuki, 6-4, 7-6 (8). Later, Draper eliminated American wild card Stefan Kozlov, 7-5, 6-2.

Edmund had been out for 21 months after undergoing three left knee surgeries. Now, playing at the Citi Open with a protected ranking, the 639th-ranked Edmund is through to the second round against another Briton, Daniel Evans, the 16th seed.

“I didn’t find it easy today,” Edmund told the ATP Tour website. “He’s a very tricky player and very energetic, but I kept telling myself I’d worked too hard to not [give my all]. I hung in there and I got my reward in the end.”

Meanwhile, the 81st-ranked Draper’s victory advanced him to face No. 1 seed Andrey Rublev Tuesday afternoon on Stadium court. Although he fell behind 0-3 early on, the 20-year-old Draper rallied nicely. He hit 10 aces and saved four of five break points in his one hour and 53 minute win on John Harris Grandstand.

“I think Stefan plays a very awkward game,” the lefty Draper said in his on-court interview. “He’s one of the guys who really disrupts your rhythm. The first four games of the match, I found it really hard to hit the court, actually. The conditions here, it’s quite lively and you have to play with a bit more control.

“I think I adjusted pretty well and in the end, it became more of a physical battle out here in these conditions.”

Marino aces her way to win over Williams

When Canada’s Rebecca Marino fired her 10th ace of her first-round match against 42-year-old American legend Venus Williams on match point, there was stunned silence throughout the Stadium court Monday evening. Then, it hit Marino that she had pulled out a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory after an hour and 52 minutes to move on to the second round.

The 111th-ranked Marino, who qualified with a pair of wins over the weekend to earn a berth in the main draw, erased a 1-4 third-set deficit to earn the win over Williams, who is unranked and received a wild card after not playing in a tour-level match in nearly a year. Marino outpointed Williams 98-73 and benefited from 13 double faults by the seven-time Grand Slam champion.

After shaking hands with Williams, Marino walked back to her bench. Then, it occurred to her that she forgot to take a curtain call. So, Marino walked back out to tap her racquet and wave to the crowd. She did it very timidly – almost apologetically. However, the 31-year-old Canadian born in Toronto and now making home in Vancouver, earned her victory over Williams. She made a point to clap appreciatively as Williams left the court to much-beloved applause.

“It was so much fun to play in D.C.,” Williams said during her post-match press conference. “It was nice to have the crowd behind me. Haven’t played a singles match in a year, so definitely a great experience.”

Besides her 10 aces, Marino won 74 percent of her first-serve points, was broken only twice and converted four of five break points against Williams. She outpointed Williams 98-73.

“I wish I could have pulled this match through for the crowd and for the tournament,” Williams added. “But, [it] doesn’t always work out.”

Next, Marino will oppose either No. 8 seed Clara Tauson of Denmark or No. 68 Andrea Petkovic of Germany, who play Tuesday afternoon.

Monday’s Citi Open ATP results

Monday’s Citi Open WTA results

Tuesday’s Citi Open order of play

Around the Citi Open

• In the past 12 months, Great Britain’s Harriet Dart has risen nearly 100 places in the WTA Rankings, reaching a career high of No. 84 last week. She’s coming off a fantastic grass-court season in which she was a quarterfinalist at both Nottingham and Eastbourne. On Monday, the 85th-ranked Dart faced No. 97 Zhu Lin of China and lost 6-4, 6-3.

Dart’s fellow Briton, No. 2 seed Emma Raducanu, who will be featured on Stadium Court Tuesday evening against American qualifier Louisa Chirico, was in action on John Harris Grandstand playing doubles teamed with Denmark’s Clara Tauson. They lost to a very experienced team, No. 3 seeds Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic and Monica Niculescu of Romania, 6-4, 6-1, in 71 minutes.

By the numbers

With his loss to Mikael Ymer on Monday, Andy Murray is now 11-2 in his tour-level opening matches this year. His other loss was to Facundo Bagnis in Melbourne back in January. It put an abrupt end to Murray’s fourth appearance in Washington. Previously, he reached the final in 2006, the semifinals in 2018 and losing in the second round in 2015.

“Quotable …”

“It’s very rewarding. During the long periods where I was out – not picking up a racquet for five months – it was these events that I pictured myself being out here. It’s something that you miss, feeling the buzz, hearing the crowd, playing under pressure.”

Kyle Edmund of Great Britain, as quoted by the ATP Tour website, on returning to the ATP Tour after three surgeries and 21 months away with a first-round victory the Citi Open on Monday.