Andy Murray came agonisingly close to pulling off the biggest win of his comeback as he bowed out of the US Open in a dramatic and at times ill-tempered five-setter against third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The 34-year-old Scot almost defied the odds, the heat, a slippery pair of shoes and some borderline gamesmanship from the Greek world No 3.
But in a match lasting just short of five hours, Murray went down 2-6 6-7 (7) 3-6 6-3 6-4.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) August 30, 2021
Having won the first set – the first he had taken from a top-five player since 2017 – Murray had two points to clinch the second in the tie-break.
But drenched in sweat in the humid conditions, he began complaining that his trainers had become too slippery – yet it soon became apparent he did not have a spare pair.
After losing the tie-break he even instructed coach Jamie Delgado to find him a new pair, although rush hour in Manhattan is no time to go shoe shopping.
However, having come through career-saving hip surgery and a host of other injury problems over the last few years, Murray was not about to let a pair of sweaty pumps derail him.
He took the next set to lead 2-1 but Tsitsipas upped his level, racing 5-0 ahead then taking the match to a deciding set.
When Tsitsipas disappeared for yet another off-court break before the start of the fifth he was given a time violation, but Murray was clearly wound up.
After dropping serve in the opening game he was heard muttering about “cheating” and later asked supervisor Gerry Armstrong why it was taking Tsitsipas so long.
“What’s he doing in there? It’s never taken me that long to go to the toilet,” he moaned.
Murray is such a legend. However, this turns out, the fact that he’s going after the number 3 player in the world after all of it is insane. He literally has a metal hip ….. respect
— andyroddick (@andyroddick) August 30, 2021
Feeding off the crowd and a familiar sense of injustice, Murray forced a break point at 1-2 but it was extinguished by a sizzling Tsitsipas forehand.
Tsitsipas held his nerve along the finishing straight and when an exhausted Murray dropped a forehand into the net, his latest Flushing Meadows campaign was over.