THE US Open has one of the bigger player lounges on the tournament circuit and most of the competitors like the food in the restaurant, but Andy Murray is spending as little time as possible at the site of the year’s final Grand Slam event. By the end of the third day 10 players had retired during matches and three had withdrawn due to a variety of ailments and Murray is taking no chances.
“There have been a lot of players dropping out, which is a worry,” Murray said. “You can take special tablets which boost your immune system and I’m doing that. You have to be careful as a lot of people have been getting sick and you want to stay away from it.
“I’ve been avoiding the locker rooms as much as possible. You don’t want to be hanging about on site more than you need to and I’ve been trying to get out of the stadium just as soon as I can whenever I’m done.”
Murray, who plays his second-round match against the Dutchman Robin Haase following his straight-sets win over Somdev Devvarman on Wednesday, is feeling in good shape, particularly after embarking on a diet which cuts out cow’s milk and gliadin, a protein found in wheat.
“I’m having a lot more fish and vegetables and trying to have a more balanced diet rather than just the typical pasta before matches and steaks and chicken,” he said. “I feel way better. I wake up at 7am now and feel great. Before I would wake up at 9.30 and feel terrible.”
The world No 4’s feel-good factor has been helped by a change of accommodation this year. “I stayed in this hotel before when I made the final in 2008,” he said. “It’s quieter and right beside Central Park. There are a couple of restaurants which we pretty much use the whole time.”
Six men (Kei Nishikori, Conor Niland, Louk Sorensen, Frank Dancevic, Karol Beck and Marinko Matosevic) and four women (Jamie Hampton, Misaki Doi, Ayumi Morita and Yanina Wickmayer) quit during matches in the first three days of the tournament. Radek Stepanek’s premature exit against Juan Monaco yesterday established a record for the number of retirements at this tournament in the Open era. Three players also withdrew before playing, including Venus Williams, who revealed on Wednesday that she has been diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, a medical condition that affects her energy levels and causes fatigue and joint pain. The Czech Republic’s Petra Cetkovska joined the list yesterday when she withdrew before her match against Ana Ivanovic.
Haase, Murray’s opponent, has had his own physical problems in the past. By the age of 20 the Dutchman had broken into the world’s top 100, only for a serious knee injury to keep him out of the game for more than a year. This is the first season in which the 24-year-old has become a regular on the main ATP tour.
An attacking player with a big serve, Haase took Rafael Nadal to five sets at Wimbledon last summer. He reached the third round at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year and won his first title last month on clay at Kitzbühel. He reached the semi-finals at Winston-Salem last week in his only warm-up tournament before competing the US Open.
The world No 41 is a contemporary of Murray’s, but while the Scot went to play at the Sanchez Casal academy in Barcelona the Dutchman stayed at school until he was 18 years old. “That’s why Andy got so quickly to the top,” Haase said. “When I finished my school I started to play some Futures, when he was already something like No 50 in the world.”
The two players have met only once before, when Haase won in straight sets in Rotterdam three years ago, the week after Murray had won a tournament in Marseilles. “I think he was a little tired,” Haase recalled. “If you win a title it’s always tough to come back. I played good tennis, but he wasn’t playing his best tennis. I took advantage of that and now I have to play for sure much better than I did then.”
Murray said: “He’s made life difficult for a lot of good players so I have to be ready. I’ve know him since the juniors, when I was 12 or 13. When I was that age the British team used to go over to Holland to play against their best kids. He’s the same now as he was back then. He always hits the ball big and is unpredictable. He can be quite inconsistent, though, so that’s what I will have to play on.”
Haase added: “I’ll definitely have to get my percentage of errors really low because he’s not giving any errors most of the time. I will have to be healthy, that’s also the first thing. I need to be fit and be there mentally for every point, because he’s just not giving you anything. And then of course I need to serve well because Andy’s a great returner. I just need to play my best game and hit a lot of winners.”
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