The second round starts Wednesday from Queens, New York.
New York City has a new hero, and his name is Andy Murray. The 32-year-old Scot, who played a 4.5 hour, five set match on a hip replacement, seemed to simply get better and more determined as the match wore on after losing the first two sets, 6-4, 6-4, to pesky Yoshihito Nishioka. After Nishioka won the second set I conceded in my mind that the Tour was just too rough for Murray and his new hip, but oh how wrong I was. This man is a giant among men, and would have had the whole of Arthur Ashe Stadium rocking for him had spectators been allowed. Even though the match was seen only on TV, it was an effort to behold, and I have no doubt that Murray has made many more fans.
I couldn’t let a mention of Murray go without also mentioning Russian Karen Khachanov, who also recovered from two sets down to rising Italian teenager Jannik Sinner before coming back and taking the fifth set tiebreaker 7-4. This was another example of a match that would have been long over had the format been best of three sets, but by continuing the historic men’s format in the Grand Slam events, the ITF has positioned men’s matches as more than just personal athletic battles. They can be a test of a man’s mettle, and no matter how many matches Khachanov now loses, I will long remember this remarkable comeback against a real star in the making. Murray? Let’s just put his picture up on tennis’ Mount Rushmore aside Jimmy Connors. He deserves it.
What else happened Tuesday in New York? Former champ Marin Cilic also came back from a two sets to none deficit to take out American transplant Denis Kudla. I felt Cilic could, and should, win the match, but once he was down two sets I wrote him off. Good for him in proving me wrong once again. Ohio State grad J.J. Wolf won a first round match against 29th seeded Guido Pella in four sets, and appears perhaps the furthest along (along with Brandon Nakashima) of all the young Americans. I’ve been watching him since he was a college sophomore and I’m convinced he has the goods. He didn’t leave college with an NCAA championship, but that’s just because there are more foreigners playing the NCAAs than Americans. He’s a winner.
Other winners? Frances Tiafoe slid by Andreas Seppi in four to pick up a cool hundred grand. John Millman took out Nikoloz Basilashvili in three straight, Roberto Carballes Baena need four sets to knock out the aging (but graceful) Feli Lopez, Boris Badenov (Daniil Medvedev) knocked out Federico Delbonis in three, Roberto Bautista Augut (RBA) beat Tennys Sandgren in straight sets, Miomir Kecmanovic needed five sets to top 25-year-old Italian Gianluca Mager, Vasek Pospisil took a moment out of his increasingly heavy political load to beat aging German Philipp Kohlschreiber in straights, resurgent Canadian Milos Raonic knocked out Leonardo Mayer in three, Alex de Minaur showed good form in knocking out Andrej Martin in three, and Richard Gasquet showed his unique form as Dr. Ivo (Ivo Karlovic) tired after taking the first two sets to tiebreakers and the stylish Frenchman notched a 7-6, 7-6, 6-1 victory.
American Sam Querrey showed a lot of rust and little resolve in going down to Andrey Kuznetsov 6-4, 7-6, 6-2, while rising French star Corentin Moutet took down Jiri Vesely in straight sets also. Last year’s semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov simply ran over American Tommy Paul 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 while Brit Dan Evans rolled in straight sets over Brazillian Thiago Seyboth Wild. Slovakian Norbert Gombos surprised Radu Albot in three, American Bradley Klahn went down to Sumit Nagal in four, and second seeded Dominic Thiem beat Jaume Munar after looking like he’d drop the first set, and recovered before Munar retired after two sets.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that American Mackie McDonald dropped a close five setter to Casper Ruud, or that American alternate Ernesto Escobedo dominated Kamil Majchrzak in three. Lastly, rising Finnish teenager Emil Ruusuvuori used his guile and mature game to beat Aljaz Bedene in five sets before Frenchman Ugo Humbert used his tough lefty serve to dominate Yuichi Sugita.
So, the Americans were mediocre at best, but still playing under the Stars and Stripes are Michael Mmoh, Mitchell Krueger, Stevie Johnson, Taylor Fritz, Marcos Giron, Maxime Cressey, Jack Sock, Nakashima, Escobedo, Tiafoe, and Wolf. If you’re a fan rooting for winners, however, you might be better off rooting on those from the Great North, as Canadians left include Denis Shapovalov, Felix Augur-Alliasime, Raonic, and Pospisil.