August 26, 2014 in Sports

Murray toughs it out

Battles cramps in third set of first-round win over Haase
Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Eighth-seeded Andy Murray returns a shot on Monday.
(Full-size photo)

NEW YORK – Spinning in 70 mph second serves, grabbing at his hamstring during points, Andy Murray gritted his way through head-to-toe cramps to win at the U.S. Open.

Murray outlasted Robin Haase 6-3, 7-6 (6), 1-6, 7-5 in the first round Monday during an afternoon that was hot but not particularly humid. He was mystified that the cramps came on so early – at the start of the third set after only about an hour and a half on court.

“When it starts to kind of go everywhere, you don’t know exactly where it’s going to creep up next,” he said. “When you stretch one muscle, something else then cramps, too.”

It started in the back of his left shoulder, then quickly spread to his forearm. The right-handed Murray couldn’t toss the ball high enough to get any pace on his serves.

Between points, he’d twist his body to awkwardly stretch his left side. After hitting a winner, he’d reach for his quad.

Murray was twice down a break in the fourth set, but the 70th-ranked Haase unraveled with a string of unforced errors. He wasted three break points in the final game, when a missed call also cost him.

The eighth-seeded Murray had felt confident in his conditioning after productive training sessions in Miami, where he weathered far more heat and humidity than this. He wondered if something was amiss in his nutrition.

“Cramping in my left forearm?” a bewildered Murray said. “I mean, I didn’t use my left forearm a whole lot today.”

Haase, also bothered by some cramping, said he didn’t eat and drink enough beforehand because of an earlier-than-expected start – the first match on Louis Armstrong Stadium lasted just 47 minutes.

But Murray didn’t think dehydration was his problem, indicating he didn’t have any gastrointestinal problems.

Serving for the fourth set at 5-3, Haase double-faulted on break point to allow Murray to get back on serve. Murray then went up 6-5 when he took Haase’s second serve high and whacked a forehand winner.

With Murray trying to serve out the match, Haase smacked a deep return on his second break point that might have won him the game. But the ball was called out, and after it was overturned on review, they had to replay the point. This time, Haase hit a volley into the net.

Murray is notorious for suddenly clutching at an ailment after a poorly played point. On this day, though, the misery was clearly real. The two-time major champion went after winners to shorten points, tried to stay upright to keep the strain off his legs. It was just enough to eke out the victory.

“I don’t think if it would have gone to five sets I would’ve been the favorite,” Murray said.

Venus moves on

Venus Williams started with a soft forehand, shifted to a gentle backhand and even tried to blow away a most pesky opponent. She kept moving from sideline to sideline, yet still couldn’t shake free at the U.S. Open.

Not until three attendants came onto the court to help did Williams escape what was bugging her Monday – a bee that wanted to land on her racket.

“The bee was a challenge,” the two-time Queen Bee of Flushing Meadows said after beating Kimiko Date-Krumm 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the first round.

The prematch buzz was all about the ages of the players. Williams is 34, Date-Krumm is 43 and their combined 77 years was believed to be the oldest for opponents in a women’s Grand Slam pairing, the WTA said.

“According to Kimiko, I’ve got another decade,” Williams said.

Earlier in the match, a bee interrupted Date-Krumm’s serve. She refused to kill it, and instead parried the insect.

Then with the 19th-seeded Williams ahead 3-0 in the final set, a bee flew close to Williams as she prepared to serve.

Down 5-0 in the third set, Date-Krumm won three straight games. At deuce in the final game, she missed an easy shot and crouched at the net for a full 10 seconds, thinking about the chance that got away.

Williams won the match on the next point.

Halep rallies to win

Ranked second in the world, Simona Halep merited the honor of kicking off the U.S. Open on center court.

The stage proved imposing at first, and Halep needed to rally from a set down to beat a young American making her Grand Slam debut.

The Romanian won 6-7 (2), 6-1, 6-2 over 20-year-old Danielle Rose Collins. As a sophomore at Virginia, unseeded Collins won the NCAA title to earn a wild card into the U.S. Open.

The French Open runner-up, Halep reached a career-high ranking of No. 2 this month. She has never advanced past the fourth round at the U.S. Open.

“My best moment of my life – I have to enjoy this,” she said in an on-court interview after the match. “But it’s not easy. There’s a lot of pressure on me. Everyone is telling me that I have chances to win.”

For Collins, she expected to return 24 hours later to a far smaller venue: a college classroom.

“Summer was too much fun,” she said.

Hobbled by injuries during the season, Collins rolled through the NCAA tournament in May to become the Cavaliers’ first women’s singles champion.

She had never before even played a main draw match at a tour-level event. She started right at the top by playing in Ashe.

Sharapova returns

Maria Sharapova made a winning return to the tournament, overcoming a few wobbles with her serve tosses before taking the final 10 games to beat longtime friend Maria Kirilenko 6-4, 6-0 in a first-round night match.

The fifth-seeded Sharapova, who missed the tournament last year because of an injured right shoulder, trailed 4-2 in the first set. She then took control in the matchup between 27-year-old Russians and didn’t drop another game.

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