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Andy Murray ousted at U.S. Open, worries about rules

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NEW YORK — Andy Murray‘s return to the U.S. Open was brief. His briefest Grand Slam singles stay in 10 years.

The three-time major champion was ousted by No. 31 Fernando Verdasco of Spain 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the sweltering second round on Wednesday.

It’s his earliest Grand Slam singles exit since the 2008 Australian Open.

Murray, who won his first Slam at the 2012 U.S. Open, was playing his first major since 2017 Wimbledon.

Murray cut short his 2017 season and missed the first three Slams of 2018 due to a hip injury that required winter hip surgery.

“I think some of the tennis I played today was some of the best I’ve played since I had the surgery or since I came back,” Murray said. “But there were also periods in the match, especially in the first set, where, you know, I really didn’t play particularly well.”

Murray, the 2012 and 2016 Olympic gold medalist, came to New York ranked No. 382 due to the absence, having played just seven ATP matches in the last year.

“The last 10 years or so I’ve been coming and trying to prepare to win the event, whereas I don’t feel like that’s realistic for me this year,” Murray said before the tournament.

“There’s for sure doubts about [returning to the top],” he said Wednesday. “I mean, when I got the injury, I was ranked No. 1 in the world. Twelve months later, you know, things completely changed.”

Verdasco, a 34-year-old whose deepest Grand Slam run was a 2009 Australian Open semifinal, gets No. 3 Juan Martin del Potro in the third round.

Murray complained that Verdasco might have flouted the rules during their 10-minute heat break.

Murray also said that the tournament did not do a good enough job of making clear exactly what is allowed and what isn’t during the time away from the court. The U.S. Tennis Association decided on the fly to allow rest periods in men’s matches for the first time in U.S. Open history as the temperature soared past 95 degrees (33 Celsius) this week.

While the women’s rules already call for a break if the conditions are too extreme, there is no such provision for the men. But on Tuesday, the USTA offered men a chance to rest after the third set if they want, then applied that rule on Wednesday, too.

“I went for a shower. He was having an ice bath,” Murray said about Verdasco. “When I came out of the shower … one of the Spanish doubles players was in there chatting to him, and you’re not allowed to speak to your coach. I went and told the supervisor. I said, ‘What are you guys doing? I mean, there’s clear rules here and you’re allowing this to take place. I don’t get it.’”

The USTA said players were not allowed to consult coaches during the heat breaks.

Verdasco said that’s not what he was doing. He said he was chatting with another player and that player’s coach.

“I didn’t talk one word with my coach or any one member of my team,” said Verdasco, who had been 1-13 against Murray head-to-head entering this match. “I know exactly the rule, and I don’t want to be the one breaking it.”

But Murray was upset that there wasn’t better policing of players while they were off the court.

“This is one of the biggest events in the world. If you have rules like that, you need to stick with them, because one player getting to speak to the coach and the other not is not fair,” said the three-time major champion and former No. 1.

“I shouldn’t be in that position, in the middle of a match at a Slam, having to make sure they’re doing their job,” he said.

Murray also said he was never given a complete written list of the relevant rules.

“The players and teams should know. I’m not blaming Fernando and his team. They probably weren’t aware that that was the rules. They certainly weren’t trying to break any rules. It shouldn’t be for the player that’s competing against him to have to go to the supervisor,” Murray said. “If I hadn’t said anything, they would have been chatting, chatting about the match, giving tactics and stuff.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

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After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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