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US Open: Murray shuns deluge to see off Granollers in straight sets

US Open: Murray shuns deluge to see off Granollers in straight sets

Andy Murray’s first match under the new Arthur Ashe Stadium roof had its stormy moments. After three days of heat and humidity in New York, the heavens opened in spectacular fashion yesterday, with the rain drumming so loudly on the carapace that the players couldn’t hear the sound of ball on racket.

Andy Murray

Murray and Granollers played under the roof with rain falling at Flushing Meadows

A creature of habit, Murray was unsettled by the background noise, which he described as the loudest he had ever experienced, as well as by the cleverly-disguised net-rushes of his opponent Marcel Granollers. Serving for the first set, he was broken for the first time in the tournament, becoming visibly agitated and edgy in his shot-making

Andy Murray

Murray struggled with his first-serve percentage in the unfamiliar conditions

But if Murray’s timing – and his first serve – were out of kilter at this stage of the contest, he could still fall back on his native bloody-mindedness. A sheer accumulation of pressure was enough to carry him through those first-set jitters and eventually dispose of Granollers in straight sets: 6-4, 6-1, 6-4. Perhaps 2hrs 22mins might have represented a longer workout than he was hoping for, yet the various stress factors of the afternoon should have provided a useful build-up to tomorrow’s third round.

“At first you don’t know what was happening, if people are just coming in at the change of ends,” said Murray when asked about the ambient noise. “I didn’t particularly realise it was raining outside. It’s tough, You couldn’t really hear the ball at all.”

For most of the time, the new Arthur Ashe Stadium sounds like an indoor swimming pool, such is the ambient hum that reflects downwards and fills this gigantic bowl. Granollers was unhappy with the hubbub from the start, and it can only be matter of time before a player erupts in frustration.

The deluge outside, which intensified early in the second set, added an extra complication – an unearthly roar like a motorway at the bottom of your garden. Tennis players rely on hearing as well as eyesight to judge their opponent’s shots, for a slightly off-centre contact makes for a different kind of trajectory through the air.

As Murray explained later, “We do pick up the sound of the ball to judge the spins and read the pace of the serve.” But he also acknowledged that “We’re lucky to have the roof or we wouldn’t be playing at all.” As for Granollers, he said that he hadn’t felt like he was hitting the ball at all because of the lack of an accompanying sound.

Tricky as the condition changes can be, the privilege of playing under cover is one of the manifold advantages enjoyed by the leading players. The Australian Open, with its three roofs, is more even-handed. But at Wimbledon and the US Open, there is only one, so the top men and women are usually able to get on with their schedules while everyone else waits around. (The French Open is the most egalitarian of all, of course, on the grounds that nobody gets to play in the rain.)

With more storms likely as the fortnight progresses, Murray should also have been glad to get some early acclimatisation done on Arthur Ashe Stadium. He landed just 43 per cent of his first serves yesterday and admitted afterwards that “It is different serving under the roof.” Next time, one suspects that this part of his game will be more robust.

With the lovely new Grandstand court now packing them in at the south-western corner of the site, Murray will also be hoping to avoid playing any matches on Louis Armstrong Stadium – his least favourite arena in world tennis, where he has invariably struggled for timing and rhythm.

These essential qualities did go missing yesterday after Murray failed to serve the first set out at 5-3. The cause was a series of lightning raids by Granollers, who kept whacking bold approaches with his flat double-fisted backhand and rushing to the net.

Murray was not just taken aback by his opponent’s sudden assertiveness, but also a little over-anxious about the need to get the job done quickly. He knows how important a clean first week is for him after the weight of matches he has played this year, and this very urgency lured him into a couple of uncharacteristically cheap errors. Eventually, though, he wore Granollers down in an epic tenth game that lasted 14 minutes and featured seven deuces.

“Had it gone to 5-5, the pressure is all back on me because I had led 5-2 and had a bunch of set points,” Murray told Brad Gilbert afterwards. “Thankfully I was able to get that game, but he is a very tricky guy to play against; good hands up at the net so I was just glad to get through in three sets.”

In hindsight, Granollers might feel that he was a little quick to give up on the net-rush tactic that brought him his lone break of the match. But then advancing on Murray, whose dipping crosscourt passing shots are among the wonders of the game, can quickly become demoralising if he finds his range. “He is very strong player,” said Granollers. “if you don’t go to the net with the right shot, you get passed.”

“Had it gone to 5-5, the pressure is all back on me because I had led 5-2 and had a bunch of set points,” Murray told Brad Gilbert afterwards. “Thankfully I was able to get that game, but he is a very tricky guy to play against; good hands up at the net so I was just glad to get through in three sets.”

In hindsight, Granollers might feel that he was a little quick to give up on the net-rush tactic that brought him his lone break of the match. But then advancing on Murray, whose dipping crosscourt passing shots are among the wonders of the game, can quickly become demoralising if he finds his range. “He is very strong player,” said Granollers. “if you don’t go to the net with the right shot, you get passed.”




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Sydney Chesterfield

Poet, Playwright, Philosopher, Humanitarian, mad lover of children and unflinching fighter for equality on all grounds viz. Women's rights, child rights, sine die.

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