Andy Murray set to skip U.S. Open to focus on singles

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Former No. 1 tennis player Andy Murray said Thursday he will bypass the U.S. Open entirely to work instead on rebuilding his singles career in smaller events.

Earlier this year, the two-time defending Olympic champion and three-time Grand Slam winner was set to retire due to nagging hip problems, but he decided in June to ease his way back into tennis by playing doubles. He won his comeback tournament with Spanish player Feliciano Lopez in a Wimbledon warmup. He returned to Wimbledon, where his 2013 and 2016 singles titles sent his home nation of Britain into a frenzy, to play doubles with Pierre-Hugues Herbert but lost in the second round.

He teamed up with his brother, Jamie, and won his first-round match in the Citi Open in Washington before losing in the second round, then returned to play with Lopez in Montreal, where he again advanced to the second round.

This week in Cincinnati, he and Lopez have advanced to the quarterfinals, where they will face off this afternoon against his brother.

“My goal is to get back playing at the level that I want to on the singles court, and I’ve decided that I need to focus all my energies on that right now,” Murray said in comments reported by BBC Sport.

The next step on his agenda is a tournament in Winston-Salem, N.C., with a field filled with mid-tier and lower-tier players. He may enter a Challenger tournament after that.

Murray, who played his first singles match since January’s Australian Open on Monday, said earlier in the week that he would not take a wild card in the U.S. Open singles draw. But he was still set to play men’s and mixed doubles in the U.S. Open until announcing his change of plans on Thursday.

In 2016, Murray won nine tournaments, including his second Wimbledon and Olympic titles. He finally broke the stranglehold of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic to claim the No. 1 ranking after a couple of years in the top three.

But in 2017, he only won one tournament, a March event in Dubai. He still advanced to the French Open semifinals and Wimbledon quarterfinals, losing each match in five sets, and he held the No. 1 ranking until August.

After Wimbledon, he was idle for nearly a year. A loss in the 2018 U.S. Open second round, his only major of the year, seemed likely to be his last Grand Slam appearance.

His second hip surgery, though, has helped the 32-year-old Murray play without pain.