By Jane Voigt
The rumblings began days ago. Andy Murray was limping during practice. Many wondered if they were seeing correctly. They were.
On Saturday, Murray, the number two seed at this year’s U. S. Open, withdrew from the last Grand Slam of the year due to continual problems with his hip.
“It’s too sore for me to win the tournament and ultimately that’s what I was here to try and do,” Murray said, as reported by The New York Times. “Unfortunately, I won’t be playing here this year.”
His withdrawal means three of the top five men’s players will not compete in New York: Novak Djokovic (No. 5), Stan Wawrinka (No. 4) and now Murray (No. 2). And it means that 5 of the top 15 players won’t compete, either. The Scot, who won the tournament in 2012, said he “wants to get back to playing as soon as possible, aiming for a return this season,” tennis.com reported today.
“Obviously, I spoke to a number of specialists about it, to get the best advice possible,” Murray said. “When you speak to a lot, there is different views and opinions on what the best thing to do is moving forward. That’s a decision I’mm need to take now.”
The troubling pattern of injuries and withdrawals has not been directly addressed by the ATP, WTA or International Tennis Federation, the major organizations associated with tour-level tennis. (Grand Slams are under the purview of the ITF). Djokovic, Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori (No. 10) have all hung up their racquets for the year while Milos Raonic (No. 11) withdrew from the Open with a continuing wrist injury before the draw was made.
The trend, though, seems to have been started by Roger Federer. He put himself on the debilitated list after Wimbledon last year, only to return to real competition in January. Yet, his entry to the Open is also fraught with potential problems. He withdrew from the Western & Southern Open in mid-August after he injured his back in the final of Montreal. At 36, a full recovery from a back problem could be described as a ship that’s sailed. However, players only compete every other day at a major theoretically giving him time to recover before the next best-of-five match.
As a result of all this mayhem, the draw looks like a throwback tournament with Rafael Nadal seeded number one and Federer at number three. The withdrawal of Murray, which came after the official draw was released Friday, means players were shifted … but not Federer into Murray’s spot, which could have meant a Nadal, Federer final … a first at this major.
Instead, per policy from the Grand Slam Rule Book, Marin Cilic (No. 5) takes Murray’s spot at the bottom of the draw. Cilic’s spot is filled by Alexander Zverev (No. 4), Sam Querrey (No. 17) takes Zverev’s berth and John Isner (No. 10) replaces Sam. All this shuffling means more opportunity for players who have been pushed around by the so called Big Four.
Querrey, who has had a block-buster season, has moved outside the quarter where Federer and Nick Kyrgios sit. Additionally, Zverev, Querrey, Isner and another American, Jack Sock (No. 13) have now landed in the same quarter, which is good for the ‘America Grand Slam,’ at least when promotion is considered.
Because Nadal and Federer are on one side of the draw, this U.S. Open will be the sixth consecutive one where 2 of the Big Four will not reach the semifinals, according to Fanrag.