British top seed Andy Murray suffered a stunning defeat in his first hardcourt warm-up match for the US Open, losing Wednesday to Teymuraz Gabashvili at the ATP and WTA Washington Open.
The 53rd-ranked Russian outlasted third-ranked Murray 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7/4) over two hours and 41 minutes to reach the third round at the ATP and WTA Washington Open.
Gabashvili, who was 3-22 against top-10 foes before the match, hit 30 winners and only made 15 unforced errors in making Murray the highest-ranked victim of his career, advancing to face the winner of a later match between Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas and Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis.
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It was a shocking defeat for the 28-year-old Scotsman, who sparked Britain’s Davis Cup team past France in July after a semi-final run at Wimbledon. Murray, the 2012 US Open and 2013 Wimbledon champion, was playing in the US capital for the first time since losing the 2006 final to France’s Arnaud Clement.
Gabashvili, who lost to Murray last year at Shanghai in their only prior meeting, broke the Briton with a backhand winner to take the first set after 45 minutes.
The 30-year-old Russian denied him on a break chance with a service winner and held to 2-2.
Murray made the most of his next break chance in the seventh game, his running forehand lob setting up a Gabashvili forehand overhead smash that the Russian swatted wide to surrender a 4-3 edge.
Murray netted a forehand to give Gabashvili a break chance in the 10th game but the Russian sent a forehand volley long and two points later hit a backhand wide to hand the Scotsman the second set.
Murray broke Gabashvili at love in the ninth game of the third set and was two points from victory before surrendering a service break, a wide crosscourt backhand pulling the Russian level at 5-5.
After Murray hit a forehand winner for a 4-3 lead in the tie-breaker, Gabashvili won the final four points, the last on a backhand winner with a celebration fist pump seconds later.
Andy Murray has spent a week adjusting to hardcourts ahead of the Washington Open, his earliest arrival to any event this year paying off with confident strokes.
The 28-year-old Scotsman is seeking his 35th career ATP title and fourth of the year in his first tour event since reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals, where he lost to Roger Federer.
Top seed Murray makes his first Washington appearance since 2006, when he lost to France’s Arnaud Clement in the final. He arrived last Tuesday, cutting short his rest to begin his training push to the US Open that starts in four weeks.
“I haven’t actually hit a ball on a hardcourt since Miami. That has been four or five months,” Murray said. “It takes quite a lot of time to get used to the conditions.”
The field also features eighth-ranked Marin Cilic, the first reigning US Open champion in the US capital since Andre Agassi in 2000, and 2014 US Open runner-up Kei Nishikori.
Murray, who faces Russia’s Teymuraz Gabashvili in the round of 32, is 48-7 this year with titles at Queen’s, Madrid and Munich. He also reached the finals at Miami and the Australian Open and the semi-finals at Wimbledon and the French Open.
“One of the things I spoke about at the beginning of the year was consistency. That has been a positive,” he said. “The year as a whole, there has been some progress. Hopefully I get on a good run on the hardcourts to the end of the year.”
After Wimbledon, Murray was the hero as Britain beat France 3-1 in the Davis Cup, advancing to a home September semi-final against Australia.
“It’s a good opportunity,” Murray said. “France was a huge win for us, one I wasn’t probably expecting.
"We’re in a good position but Australia for us is a very difficult match with the depth they have. It would be amazing if we could make the final. I certainly didn’t expect that at the beginning of the year.”
The North American hardcourt season is upon us and the US Open – the final grand slam of the year – is just four weeks away.
While the US Open is where Novak Djokovic reached his first major final back in 2007 and it is a place where the Serb has been the most consistent ever since, making the semis or better for the past eight years, Flushing Meadows is also a site where he has won just once, compared to five times in Melbourne and three at Wimbledon.
Djokovic’s best record is on hard courts – 83.3 per cent winning record compared to 81.7 per cent on grass and 79.6 on clay – but New York has not been too kind to the world No1 over the years with his most recent surprise loss there coming to Kei Nishikori in last year’s semi-finals.
So even though Djokovic heads to the city as the favourite, having won two majors already this season and with only three losses suffered since January, other players must realise that there is an opportunity to seize.
The US Open has seen five different champions in its last six editions which makes it the most open major compared to the other three in recent years.
Could we get a surprise winner like Marin Cilic last season? It certainly seems possible.
With most eyes now fixed on the hardcourts – barring a bizarrely-scheduled clay event at Kitzbuhel – here’s a recap of the last week.
Rafa gets back (some of) his long lost mojo
Getting out of tricky situations and ending up with an ATP 500 title could be just what the doctor ordered for Rafael Nadal to try and regain some of his confidence but the reality is the Spaniard still struggled on his presumably favourite surface en route to his trophy win in Hamburg.
Things change fairly quickly in tennis though and perhaps that victory could spur Nadal on when he heads to the US. But he will have to attend to that dodgy shoulder that saw him struggle on serve throughout the week in Germany, because he would never get away with some of those serves against players not named Fabio Fognini.
After searching for a coach, Ivanovic is back with Sears
Ana Ivanovic confirmed news we have known for a couple of weeks now, which is that she is back working with Nigel Sears – Andy Murray’s father-in-law – who coached her from 2011 to 2013.
Ivanovic has spoken a lot about how tough it is finding the right coach to work with and she attributed her recent semi-final result at the French Open to having a good team around her which included Mats Merkel, one of the adidas coaches.
But since Merkel is part of the adidas programme and can’t work with her full-time, Ivanovic went back to basics and decided to link up with someone she is comfortable with.
She didn’t have the best of results with Sears but who knows, maybe the new Ana can succeed with the Brit.
Genie’s still injured and pulls out of Washington
There seems to be no end in sight for Eugenie Bouchard’s woes as she was forced to pull out of Washington with the abdominal problem she suffered from at Wimbledon.
It’s unclear whether the Canadian will be ready for her home tournament in Toronto and from the looks of it, Bouchard’s season is shot and she’s better off preparing for 2016.