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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Noah Lyles runs personal best and is coming for Usain Bolt’s world record

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Noah Lyles ran a personal-best time in the 60m on Saturday, then reaffirmed record-breaking intentions for the 100m and, especially, the 200m, where Usain Bolt holds the fastest times in history.

Lyles, the world 200m champion, won the 60m sprint in 6.51 seconds at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, clipping Trayvon Bromell by two thousandths in his first top-level meet of the year. Bromell, the world 100m bronze medalist, is a past world indoor 60m champion and has a better start than Lyles, which is crucial in a six-second race.

But on Saturday, Lyles ran down Bromell and shaved four hundredths off his personal best. It bodes well for Lyles’ prospects come the spring and summer outdoor season in his better distances — the 100m and 200m.

“This is the moment I’ve been working, like, seven years for,” he said. “We’re not just coming for the 200m world record. We’re coming for all the world records.”

Last July, Lyles broke Michael Johnson‘s 26-year-old American record in the 200m, winning the world title in 19.31 seconds. Only Bolt (19.19) and fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake (19.26) have run faster.

Lyles has since spoken openly about targeting Bolt’s world record from 2009.

How does an indoor 60m time play into that? Well, Lyles said that his success last year sprung from a strong indoor season, when he lowered his personal best in the 60m from 6.57 to 6.56 and then 6.55. He followed that by lowering his personal best in the 200m from 19.50 to 19.31.

He believes that slicing an even greater chunk off his 60m best on Saturday means special things are on the horizon come the major summer meets — the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in July (on the same Oregon track where he ran the American 200m record) and the world championships in Budapest in August.

After focusing on the 200m last year, Lyles plans to race both the 100m and the 200m this year. He has a bye into the 200m at world championships, so expect him to race the 100m at USATF Outdoors, where the top three are in line to join world champ Fred Kerley on the world team.

Lyles’ personal best in the 100m is 9.86, a tenth off the best times from Kerley, Bromell and 2019 World 100m champ Christian Coleman. Bolt is in his own tier at 9.58.

Also Saturday, Grant Holloway extended a near-nine-year, 50-plus-race win streak in the 60m hurdles, clocking 7.38 seconds, nine hundredths off his world record. Olympic teammate Daniel Roberts was second in 7.46. Trey Cunningham, who took silver behind Holloway in the 110m hurdles at last July’s world outdoor championships, was fifth in 7.67.

Aleia Hobbs won the women’s 60m in 7.02 seconds, one week after clocking a personal-best 6.98 to become the third-fastest American in history after Gail Devers and Marion Jones (both 6.95). Hobbs, 26, placed sixth in the 100m at last July’s world championships.

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world 400m hurdles champion competing for the first time since August, and Jamaican Shericka Jackson, the world 200m champion, were ninth and 10th in the 60m heats, just missing the eight-woman final.

In the women’s pole vault, Bridget Williams, seventh at last year’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, upset the last two Olympic champions — American Katie Moon and Greek Katerina Stefanidi. Williams won with a 4.63-meter clearance (and then cleared 4.71 and a personal-best 4.77). Stefanidi missed three attempts at 4.63, while Moon went out at 4.55.

The indoor track and field season continues with the Millrose Games in New York City next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

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Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

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One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

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