There was a time when even Andy Murray himself thought that his best tennis days were not only behind him, but also that he had to put the sport behind him for good.
It was the 2019 Australian Open, a tournament where Murray had reached the finals five times and had to undergo his second hip surgery in as many years. Prior to the start of that tournament, the then 31-year-old announced that that tournament could possibly be his last.
MORE: Why some of the biggest tennis stars aren’t playing US Open
But while Murray doubted his future nearly two and a half years ago, he left little doubt about his ability to play at a high level on Monday night at the US Open.
As a result of his injuries leading to poor showings – and missing a lot of time last year amid the pandemic and early tournament closures – Murray, the former three-time major champion, took part in his match against current No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas ranked No. . 112 and as an underdog.
Murray lost a crushing five-set defeat to Tsitsipas after winning the first and third sets; Tsitsipas took second, fourth and fifth place, but it was the comments of the first that got people talking.
Murray proved he could hold on to top competition again, but it remains to be seen whether that will be the predominant story of the 34-year-old’s loss after accusing Tsitsipas of taking too long to go to the toilet, or whether he took too long during timeouts and between games and sets.
Murray also said he was prepared for Tsitsipas’ alleged antics, “especially when things didn’t go his way,” and that it wasn’t necessary for Tsitsipas to leave the court, but rather for how long he did.
“The problem is, you can’t stop the way that affects you physically. When you play such a brutal game and stop for seven or eight minutes, you cool down,” Murray said. “You can prepare yourself for it mentally as much as you want, but it’s the fact that it affects you physically if you take a break for so long, well, several times during the game.”
He also felt that Tsitsipas’ key breaks, after losing the third set and winning the fourth, helped hamper his momentum and were some key interruptions that ended up affecting Murray more than he expected.
“It’s just disappointing because I think it affected the outcome of the game,” Murray said. “I’m not saying I’m necessarily going to win that game for sure, but it affected what happened after those breaks.”
In a match that lasted four hours and 48 minutes, the oft-injured Murray also questioned the validity of Tsitsipas’ need for medical attention, as Murray felt there was nothing wrong and Tsitsipas was “fine, moving great I thought.” ‘.
In his 16th year as a professional, Murray admitted that perhaps he shouldn’t have been as impressed with what happened as he was, but he argued that it’s easier to deal with the mental breaks after long timeouts and interruptions than the physical.
He also claimed that he may not have been the only player on the tour to feel that way. Murray admitted he was wrong in his perception, but said other players know that Tsitsipas has done similar things in the past.
“If everyone thinks that’s totally cool and there’s no problem with it, then maybe I’m the one who’s being unreasonable. But I think it’s bullshit. And he knows it too,” Murray said. “He knows it. The other players know it. The fact that I talked about it with my team before the game, we knew it was coming.”
Regardless of whether Murray knew what was coming or whether he was right to feel this way, Tsitsipas claims he did nothing wrong.
“I don’t think I broke any rules,” Tsitsipas said. “I played by the guidelines, how everything is. Yes, definitely something for both of us to chat about a little bit and be sure. I don’t know how my opponent feels when I play the match. It’s not really my priority.”
Murray, however, ran into trouble himself when, after having a debilitating sweat at first, his shoes began to slip on the pitch and he had no spare pair – the first time he said it had happened to him.
Ultimately, Murray’s comeback attempt failed, although the sets he took against Tsitsipas were the first he took against a top-five opponent since 2017.
And while Murray acknowledged Tsitsipas’ talent, that’s where his praise for the 23-year-old from Greece ended.
“I think he’s a brilliant player. I think he’s great for the game. But I don’t have time for that kind of thing at all and I lost respect for him.”