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ATP Cologne Indoors 2020: Men’s singles draw analysis, preview and predictions

Andy Murray and Alexander Zverev could meet in the second round of the bett1HULKS Indoors in Cologne.

We break down the men’s singles draw, analyse the contenders and predict the semifinalists and champion as Alexander Zverev, Andy Murray and Roberto Bautista Agut lead the field at the bett1HULKS Indoors in Cologne, Germany, a new ATP 250.

Watch and bet on ATP Cologne Indoors matches via bet365 – go to bet365 > live streaming > tennis > ATP Cologne to stream ATP Cologne matches live alongside in-play odds and betting.

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ATP Cologne Indoors Preview

A new addition to the tennis calendar in 2020 for one year only, back-to-back ATP 250 events will be played on indoor hard courts in Cologne, Germany at the Lanxness Arena.

The bett1HULKS Indoors will be played from 12-18 October, followed by the bett1HULKS Championships.

With players eager to seize any chance to compete before the decimated 2020 season comes to an end, the bett1HULKS Indoors has attracted a strong field led by world no. 7 Alexander Zverev and world no. 10 Roberto Bautista Agut, with Andy Murray taking a wildcard into the tournament.

ATP Cologne 250 tournament information, seeds, schedule and live streaming information

ATP Cologne Indoors Draw Analysis

Top Half

There will be fireworks from the first round in Cologne with wildcard Andy Murray drawn to face Fernando Verdasco, with the winner moving on to face top seed Zverev.

Murray beat Zverev at the ‘Cincinnati’ Masters in just his second match since the previous November, but the German has made the US Open final since then – and Murray would have to beat Verdasco to get to that clash. The Spanish left-hander, most recently in the news for announcing he intends to sue the French Open for not letting him play, is 4-13 against Murray but has won their last two matches (since Murray’s hip injury).

Zverev and Verdasco have also played some close matches, so this won’t be easy for the world no. 7. Nor will be a potential quarterfinal clash with Filip Krajinovic, the big-serving Serbian who plays well indoors – he made the final of the Paris Masters in 2017 – and who has been having decent results recently.

The second quarter is more open with mercurial Benoit Paire, who is 1-5 since shutdown, and Marin Cilic its seeds. Cilic has eight titles on indoor hard courts but is searching for form; if the 2014 US Open champion can get past Ricardas Berankis, a good player on indoor hard, in the first round, he faces Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the second and should be secure into the semifinals.

Bottom half

Germany’s best prospects in the draw apart from Zverev are in the third quarter, with big-serving Jan-Lennard Struff the seventh seed. Struff had a poor run on clay but he was playing decently on hard courts in the USA; he opens against Mikael Ymer with Radu Albot, against whom Struff is 4-1, likely to await in the second round.

Struff was knocked out of the French Open by compatriot Daniel Altmaier, the qualifier who made a big impression when he ousted Matteo Berrettini on his way to the last 16. Altmaier, given a wildcard into Cologne, could meet Felix Auger-Aliassime in the second round.
Auger-Aliassime made back-to-back ATP finals on indoor hard courts in the spring, but has had poor results of late – can he find form in a switch of surface?

Just one of world no. 10 Roberto Bautista Agut’s career titles have come on indoor hard courts but he’s made several finals. He doesn’t have an easy draw though: Veteran Gilles Simon or Marton Fucsovics, who just made a good run to the fourth round of Roland Garros, in the second round. If Bautista Agut can get past that, big-serving Hubert Hurkacz shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

ATP Cologne Indoors Prediction

Semifinals:

Zverev vs Cilic
Bautista Agut d. Struff

Final:

Zverev d. Bautista Agut

Andy Murray was left without answers on and off the court after a one-sided defeat to Stan Wawrinka at the French Open.

French Open tennis is live from 27 September-11 October 2020 – watch and bet on Roland Garros matches live at bet365. (Geo-restrictions apply, funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify; go here for more information.)

For the second Grand Slam in a row, Murray lost in straight sets, this time getting just six games against Wawrinka as they clashed in the first round of the French Open.

Murray was playing his first match at the French Open since 2017, when he lost to Wawrinka in a four-hour, 34-minute semifinal which pushed both men beyond their physical limits. But Sunday’s match on Court Philippe-Chatrier failed to deliver any comparable drama as Wawrinka took just 100 minutes to win 6-1, 6-3, 6-2.

The one-sided defeat left Murray admitting he needs to go back to the drawing board.

‘I need to have a long hard think about it. It’s not the sort of match I would just brush aside and not think about it. I think that’s one of the worst defeats by scoreline in my career. I need to understand why the performance was like that.’

The impact of that 2017 semifinal battle continues to reverberate in both men’s careers to this day. Neither would play more than a handful of matches for the remainder of the 2017 season. Wawrinka underwent multiple knee surgeries, and has not yet been able to make his way back into the top 10, although he resembles his old self much more than Murray – the 2015 French Open champion is ranked world no. 17 and has been able to make the quarterfinals of three of the past four majors, including last year’s Roland Garros.

French Open 2020: Tournament information, player records, statistics and guides to streaming Roland Garros matches live

Murray, of course, struggled for two years to rehab his injured hip before undergoing hip resurfacing surgery in January 2019 when on the brink of retirement. He had some success when he returned to the singles court in the summer, including winning the European Open in Antwerp where he beat Wawrinka in the final. But fallout from his surgery kept him off the court for the beginning of the 2020 season, which was then shut down until mid-August. The British player is currently ranked world no. 111.

Wawrinka hit 42 winners despite slow, heavy conditions (Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA)

Wawrinka proved he will have no difficulty in hitting through the unusually cold, slow and heavy conditions at this year’s autumn French Open as he struck 42 winners over the course of the match. After Murray held to open, he was broken three times to lose the first set 1-6 and the match was never anything over than one-way traffic from that point on.

Murray’s serving was particularly problematic. He landed 36% of his first serves in the match, saving only two of the eight break points with which he was faced.

Murray was left balancing praise for his opponent with excoriating his own performance, saying:

‘Today was a really tough draw and even if I played well there’s no guarantees I would win that match but today I didn’t play well. I served less than 40%, that’s just not good enough.

‘I haven’t served like that… that’s nothing to do with my hip. Mistiming returns and serving at 38% that’s got nothing to do with that. That’s something I need to look at with my team. There’s been matches I’ve served well since I came back, that’s not a physical issue.’

Murray and Wawrinka meet at the net (ChrysleneCaillaud/Panoramic)

Wawrinka moves on to face the in-form Dominik Koepfer, who recently made the quarterfinals of the Rome Masters as a qualifier, in the second round and is on a potential collision course with Dominic Thiem in the fourth round.

Murray goes back to the drawing board, although he struck a defiant note:

‘Zverev was a couple of points from winning the US Open and I’d won against him the week before. I’ll keep going. Let’s see what the next few months hold. I reckon I won’t play a match like that between now and the end of the year.’

It was a poor day for British players all round, with Dan Evans losing 6-1, 1-6, 6-7(3), 6-1, 4-6 to Kei Nishikori. He would not have been expected to do very well in Paris, but Johanna Konta, seeded ninth and a semifinalist at the French Open in 2019, was another matter. She also suffered a one-sided defeat to a tough opponent, losing 3-6, 3-6 to Coco Gauff.

 

Grand Slam champions face off in a fateful first-round French Open rematch as Andy Murray takes on Stan Wawrinka.

Murray vs Wawrinka is live from Roland Garros on Sunday 27 September, time TBC

Returning to the French Open for the first time since 2017, Andy Murray finds himself facing exactly the same opponent: Stan Wawrinka, who beat him in a four-hour, 34-minute semifinal which pushed both men beyond their limits.

French Open 2020: Find out tournament information for Roland Garros 2020 and how to stream French Open matches live

Murray has not played a match on clay since that fateful semifinal, and has played just five matches in 2020, while Wawrinka has been searching for form at Challenger level. Could Murray possibly turn the clock back on Sunday?

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

How to watch Murray vs Wawrinka live

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Murray vs Wawrinka: Head-to-head

Andy Murray leads the head-to-head with Stan Wawrinka 12-8. He has also won four of the last five matches against the Swiss, including a French Open clash in 2016 and their most recent encounter, in the Antwerp final last autumn.

Wawrinka has an overall 4-1 advantage in clay-court matches.

Murray vs Wawrinka: Preview

The tennis gods have a twisted sense of humour – that’s the only explanation for a French Open draw which pits four of the six Grand Slam champions in the men’s draw against each other in the first round. That Andy Murray should have drawn Stan Wawrinka in a rematch of the 2017 semifinal which arguably changed both men’s careers forever, on the British player’s first return to Roland Garros since that match, almost beggars belief.

Wawrinka won that four-hour, 34-minute encounter, lost to Rafael Nadal in straight sets in the final and managed two more matches in 2017 before shutting down his season to undergo multiple knee surgeries; Murray limped to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, then shut down his season, eventually almost retiring at the 2019 Australian Open before underdoing hip resurfacing surgery.

It’s the Swiss man who has returned to something like his old form and ranking; he’s made the quarterfinals of three of the past four majors, including last year’s French Open and the Australian Open in January, and is currently ranked world no. 17, while Murray only made his return to Grand Slam tennis at the US Open, beating Yoshihito Nishioka in five sets and having precisely zero energy left with which to avoid being soundly defeated by Felix Auger-Aliassime.

And yet Murray has won the two most recent matches these two have played – 6-1, 6-3 in Eastbourne in 2018, and 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in Antwerp last autumn, when he came back from a set and a break down to steal victory from under Wawrinka’s nose.

Stan Wawrinka has made the quarterfinals at three of the last four Grand Slams including Roland Garros (PA Images)

Wawrinka decided to skip the US swing, playing back-to-back Challengers in Prague instead. He won the first and reached the quarterfinals of the second before pulling out, but his level of tennis was not exactly convincing (he was pushed to three sets by five players ranked outside the top 100) and his only ATP Tour-level match was an 0-6, 6-7(2) defeat to Lorenzo Musetti at the Rome Masters.

It’s not too encouraging, but Wawrinka does reliably find his best tennis at Grand Slams, and he is playing a man with a metal hip. Moreover, the Swiss player can hit his way through slow, cold conditions – he has that kind of power, although his spin won’t be as brutal as it usually is – and he always was a better clay-court than Murray. I think Murray will take a set, but this reunion should end the same way the 2017 semifinal did – with Wawrinka triumphant.

Murray vs Wawrinka: Prediction

After his five-set heroics, can Andy Murray keep his US Open campaign alive as he faces fifteenth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime?

Murray vs Auger-Aliassime is live from New York on Thursday 3 September, 8.30pm local/1.30am BST

In his first Grand Slam match since facing Roberto Bautista Agut at the 2019 Australian Open, Andy Murray battled his way back from the brink of defeat despite never being able to find his best tennis, beating Yoshihito Nishioka 4-6, 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(4), 6-4 in a marathon four hours and 49 minutes to reach the second round of the US Open.

US Open 2020: Tournament information, schedules, latest news and live streaming information for the resilient Grand Slam in New York

After such a physically and emotionally draining match, one which left him needing access to the emergency ice bath and injections to drain blood from under his toenails, what will Murray have left with which to take on 20-year-old, 21-ranked Felix Auger-Aliassime on Thursday?

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

How to watch Murray vs Auger-Aliassime live

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Murray vs Auger-Aliassime: Head-to-head

Andy Murray and Felix Auger-Aliassime have never played.

Murray vs Auger-Aliassime: Preview

One of three former US Open champions in this year’s men’s singles draw, Murray was not the only one to go to five sets in the first round, but his match against Nishioka was unquestionably the biggest story of the first two days at this unusual Grand Slam.

It was almost as emotional as his last match at a Grand Slam, which we thought at the time would be his last match ever, when he lost in five sets to Bautista Agut at the Australian Open in 2019 after confessing that he thought his career might be over.

Hip resurfacing surgery kept that career alive, although for how long, and what it might look like exactly going forward, is unclear. Pain caused by the surgery led to bruising and inflammation which kept Murray out of competition from November last year until after the ATP Tour had been suspended for six months, and although he won his first two matches of the year against Frances Tiafoe and Alexander Zverev in ‘Cincinnati’, Murray’s poor performance against Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals showed how far he was from anything like his best tennis.

US Open Predictions and Betting Tips: Outright winner tips for men’s & women’s singles at the 2020 US Open

The first two sets of Murray’s match against Nishioka were worse. In fact, it was the worst Murray performance at a Grand Slam I can remember, with nothing working for him, his serve misfiring and a general lack of energy and intensity infecting every area of his game, while Nishioka – despite not having played since February – was full of vigour and purpose, dictating play with his left-handed forehand and making Murray’s life a misery at the net.

Felix Auger-Aliassime has reached five ATP Tour finals (PA Images)

Murray’s serve and game started to pick up midway through the third set, but by that time he was already down a break and the match should have been done and dusted. Somehow, though, Murray wormed and then clawed his way back in, taking the third set in a tie-break, repeating the feat in the fourth set and then outlasting Nishioka in the most improbable fashion.

As far as I’m concerned, and I did watch the entire thing, nothing but immense experience and an even more immense degree of stubbornness got Murray through a match that he should by all rights have lost. Even with a day to recover, is it really realistic to expect him to have anything in the tank with which to take on Auger-Aliassime?

That’s not even taking into consideration the fact that Auger-Aliassime is no mean player himself. The 20-year-old, seeded 15th, has yet to win an ATP Tour title but he’s reached two finals, including in Marseille and Rotterdam earlier in 2020; he was a Miami Masters semifinalist in 2019 and although he has only once made it to the third round of a Grand Slam, that has a lot to do with some tough draws and his body taking a while to adjust to the demands of best-of-five. Narrowly beaten in a third-set tie-break by Tennys Sandgren in the second round of ‘Cincinnati’ last week, Auger-Aliassime edged past Thiago Monteiro in four sets to reach the second round in New York. He’ll have to be much more proactive and assertive than that against Murray, but even if Murray gets off to a good start, I don’t think he can possibly have the energy reserves to sustain it.

Murray vs Auger-Aliassime: Prediction

Can Andy Murray really get the win in his first Grand Slam singles match since undergoing hip resurfacing? He faces Yoshihito Nishioka on Tuesday.

Murray vs Nishioka is live from New York on Tuesday 1 September, 12pm local/5pm BST

Andy Murray’s last Grand Slam singles match was his five-set defeat to Roberto Bautista Agut in the first round of the 2019 Australian Open, in the wake of his emotional announcement that he feared he was going to have to retire from tennis altogether after struggling with an excruciatingly painful hip injury for years. As we all know, that was not the end of Murray’s career – he underwent hip resurfacing surgery, returned to singles action by the end of 2019 and even won an ATP title in Antwerp.

US Open 2020: Tournament information, schedules, latest news and live streaming information for the resilient Grand Slam in New York

One thing Murray hasn’t done, however, is play a best-of-five sets singles match – and indeed he has only played three singles matches at all in 2020. Under the circumstances, is it realistic to expect him to beat Yoshihito Nishioka, a rising left-hander very nearly at his career-high ranking, in the first round of the US Open on Tuesday?

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

How to watch Murray vs Nishioka live

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Murray vs Nishioka: Head-to-head

This will be the first meeting between Murray and Nishioka.

Murray vs Nishioka: Preview

Even before the six-month shutdown of ATP, WTA and ITF tournaments, Murray was on the sidelines, still recuperating from the pelvic injury he incurred at the end of 2019 when playing the Davis Cup Finals.

Last week’s ‘Cincinnati’-New York Masters, relocated from its usual Ohio home to the US Open site to form a two-tournament bubble with the Grand Slam, was therefore Murray’s first official tournament since the previous November, although with all players rusty and lacking in match-fitness this was less of a disadvantage than it could have been – and Murray’s results showed it as he beat Frances Tiafoe and then, impressively, world no. 7 Alexander Zverev.

US Open Predictions and Betting Tips: Outright winner tips for men’s & women’s singles at the 2020 US Open

Murray’s win over Zverev did owe a lot to Zverev’s catastrophic slew of double faults in the closing stages – he served consecutive double faults when serving for the match and then when serving to stay in the match – and the British player was totally outplayed by Milos Raonic in the round of 16, looking low-energy and out of sorts as Raonic, who would go on to reach the final, won 6-2, 6-2.

Murray obviously has a long way to go, but he has two major advantages against Nishioka on Tuesday. The first is experience: Murray has been playing Grand Slam main-draws since 2005, and he knows all about winning matches at them – his defeat to Bautista Agut in January 2019 was his first opening-round loss at a major since the 2008 Australian Open. The second is recent matches: Murray played three last week. Nishioka hasn’t played since losing to Pierre-Hugues Herbert in Dubai in February.

Yoshihito Nishioka hasn’t played an ATP match since February (PA Images)

That said, Nishioka will be no pushover. The 24-year-old is just one place off his career-high ranking of world no. 49 at the moment: After his initial climb up the rankings was derailed by a torn ACL after making the fourth round of the Indian Wells Masters as a lucky loser in 2017, Nishioka’s ranking dropped as low as world no. 380 in 2018 but by the end of the year he was back inside the top 100 after winning his maiden ATP Tour title in Shenzhen. He scored wins over the likes of Kei Nishikori, Gael Monfils, Roberto Bautista Agut and David Goffin in 2019, made the third round of the Australian Open in January and finished runner-up at the ATP 250 in Delray Beach before the shutdown. The left-hander is the real deal.

Murray has an excellent record against left-handers which looks even better when you discount his matches against Rafael Nadal, but Nishioka – fast, compact and fit – can trouble Murray if he can find ways to be aggressive without making too many unforced errors. Experience and grit should carry Murray through, but not without Nishioka keeping it fairly close.

Murray vs Nishioka: Prediction

Andy Murray looks for his first win over a top-10 opponent in more than three years as he takes on world no. 7 Alexander Zverev at the Western & Southern Open.

Murray vs Zverev is live from Cincinnati on Monday 24 August

After claiming a hard-fought win over Frances Tiafoe in his first official singles match of 2020, Andy Murray will face a top-10 player in the form of Alexander Zverev, with a place in the last 16 at the Cincinnati-New York Masters on the line.

ATP Cincinnati-New York Masters: Tournament information, schedules and live streams for the Western & Southern Open

Murray last defeated a top-10 player at the French Open in 2017, before the lengthy battle with injury which almost saw him retire at the Australian Open in 2019 and now sees him attempting to rebuild his career with a metal hip. During Murray’s absence from the top echelons, Alexander Zverev has emerged as a force at the top of the game. Can he impose his authority on the rusty Murray on Monday?

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

How to watch Murray vs Zverev live

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Murray vs Zverev: Head-to-head

Murray and Zverev have played just once before, at the Australian Open in January 2017 when Murray won 6-1, 6-2, 6-3. Zverev was ranked world no. 83 at the time.

Murray vs Zverev: Preview

Playing his first official match since the Davis Cup Finals last November, when a groin injury forced him on to the sidelines and kept him there through the Australian Open and the first two months of the tennis season before it all went crazy, Murray was hardly in vintage form against Frances Tiafoe on Saturday but he got the win.

Tiafoe had a break point in the first set, led 5-2 in the first-set tie-break and had a set point, only for Murray to somehow wriggle off the hook and take the lead 7-6(6). With that first set in his pocket, he was able to bounce back from losing the second set 3-6 to dominate the third 6-1, leading Tiafoe to comment on Instagram: ‘Had you by the balls bro but legends prevail.’

Dogged defense and the Murray trademark of somehow squeaking out points it felt he had no right to win by virtue of refusing to miss or let a ball get past him got the British player the win over Tiafoe, who too often lacks the killer instinct to close out his foes. Theoretically, things should be much tougher for Murray against world no. 7 Zverev.

Alexander Zverev has never beaten Andy Murray (PA Images)

The German will be playing his first official match – he played some exhibitions during the shutdown, as you may have heard – since losing to Tommy Paul in the round of 16 in Acapulco back in February. During the hiatus, he has picked up a new coach in David Ferrer, although the Spanish pro is not with him in New York.

Zverev had the best result of his career at Grand Slam level when he made the semifinals of the Australian Open in January, brushing off a double-fault-riddled and troubled 2019 season, and it was largely because of how well he served. This will be key against Murray. Zverev will want to avoid getting into a long, grinding baseline battle with Murray, and to do that he will need to serve well. I don’t believe Zverev will be able to keep up good serving throughout the match, so I can see him winning in three.

Murray vs Zverev: Prediction

Andy Murray and Kim Clijsters have both been granted wildcards for the US Open.

The 2020 US Open will be played behind closed doors in New York from 31 August-13 September, and it has already been confirmed that some big names – most notably world no. 1 Ashleigh Barty and defending men’s champion Rafael Nadal – will not be present.

But two former champions certainly will be in the field as Murray and Clijsters head the list of players who have been granted wildcards for the Grand Slam tournament.

Murray, who won his maiden Grand Slam title at the US Open in 2012 when he defeated Novak Djokovic in five sets in the final, told British media last week that he was planning to play the tournament despite some health and safety concerns because he ‘[didn’t] know how many’ chances to play majors he had left.

The former world no. 1 is currently ranked world no. 129 and hasn’t played an official tournament since last November, as he works to rebuild his career after undergoing hip resurfacing surgery in January 2019. He last played the US Open in 2012, losing to Fernando Verdasco in a sweaty second-round encounter.

Murray may not actually need his wildcard, depending on how many players withdraw, as he may get into the main draw as an alternate.
Kim Clijsters will certainly need her wildcard to get into the main draw. The 37-year-old Belgian is attempting to un-retire for the second time, having won her three US Open singles titles – in 2005, 2009 and 2010 – on either side of her first retirement.

Kim Clijsters made her last US Open appearance in 2012 (Photo by Corinne Dubreuil/ABACAPRESS.COM # 332540_098)

Clijsters has not played a major since the US Open in 2012 and has only played two official matches since then, in Dubai and Monterrey earlier this season, losing both. Shortly afterwards, the global health crisis forced the shutdown of the ATP and WTA Tours in early March, but Clijsters put the time to good use playing World Team Tennis where she scored victories over Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, former US Open winner Sloane Stephens, Danielle Collins and Monica Puig in the abbreviated format.

Clijsters has also taken a wildcard into the Western & Southern Open, usually played in Cincinnati but relocated to New York for one year only to form a two-tournament bubble with the US Open.

Murray and Clijsters are the two big names among the wildcards, which are otherwise dominated by American players.

The other men’s wildcards went to:

• Brandon Nakashima (19)
• Ulises Blanch (22)
• Maxime Cressy (23)
• Sebastian Korda (20)
• Thai-Son Kwiatkowski (25)
• Michael Mmoh (22)
• JJ Wolf (21)

Korda is the son of the 1998 Australian Open men’s singles champion Petr Korda, and won the juniors at the same tournament in 2018.

Blanch, Cressy, Kwiatkowski and Wolf all won Challenger Tour titles in early 2020 before the sport was shut down.

The women’s wildcards have gone to:

• CiCi Bellis (21)
• Usue Arconada (21)
• Francesca di Lorenzo (23)
• Caroline Dolehide (21)
• Ann Li (20)
• Robin Montgomery (15)
• Whitney Osuigwe (18)

The best-known among them is Bellis, who made a brilliant US Open debut in 2016 as a young teenager when she qualified for the main draw and reached the third round. Bellis went on to record victories over opponents as impressive as Petra Kvitova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Karolina Pliskova, Madison Keys and Kiki Bertens and was ranked as high as world no. 35, but did not play at all from March 2018 until November 2019 due to wrist and elbow injuries. Despite starting 2020 outside the world’s top 800, Bellis reached the third round of the Australian Open in January.

Polarised pandemic approaches: Nick Kyrgios has pulled out of the US Open because of health concerns but Andy Murray is determined to play if possible.

In an instance of contrasting views which mirrors the divided state of the sport, this weekend saw one high-profile player announce that he could not reconcile it with his conscience to play the US Open, while another redoubles his commitment to doing just that.

Former world no. 1 Murray had admitted to previous scepticism about whether or not the US Open would even be played, but said on Sunday that he was determined to compete in it if possible:

‘I love playing the biggest events, even though this will be different, with no fans. But that is something I care about and I’m willing to take a risk to go and play.’

The 2020 US Open is scheduled to be played behind closed doors in New York from 31 August-13 September, and will be immediately preceded by the Western & Southern Open from 22-28 August, which has been relocated from Cincinnati to form a two-tournament ‘bubble’ with the Grand Slam.

Currently ranked world no. 129, Murray has not played an official match since the Davis Cup Finals last November, although he has competed in both of the Battle of the Brits exhibition tournaments organised by his brother Jamie. Murray came close to retirement in January 2019, but is attempting to rekindle his career after a hip resurfacing operation, although that is proving to be a difficult journey. He has not played at a Grand Slam since the Australian Open a year and a half ago, and admitted himself that his own uncertainties about how many opportunities he will have to do so have fed into his decision to play a US Open which – with no fans and many top players not entering – might bear little resemblance to previous editions:

‘I’ve missed it, missed it a lot. The situation I’ve been in the last few years, I’ve not had opportunity to play in many slams. I don’t know how many I’ll have left.

‘So, while I’m feeling relatively decent … obviously there is a risk there, but I want to try and play in them [Cincinnati and the US Open] and enjoy the biggest events again.’

Murray had previously speculated about entering qualifying for the Western & Southern Open in a bid to try to get more matches, but confirmed that he will enter the main draw instead.

Meanwhile, Nick Kyrgios became the latest high-profile player to pull out of the US Open.

Kyrgios’s withdrawal follows the example set by WTA world no. 1 Ashleigh Barty last week, but while his compatriot released a brief statement saying that she didn’t feel comfortable exposing herself and her team to the ‘significant risks’ inherent in travelling to the USA at this point, Kyrgios framed his decision as a moral stance.

Speaking on Instagram via ‘athlete empowerment platform’ Uninterrupted, Kyrgios said:

‘I’ve got no problem with the USTA putting on the US Open, and if players want to go, that’s up to them, so long as everyone acts appropriately and acts safely. …

‘I will not be playing this year at the US Open. It hurts me to my core not to be out there competing in one of the sport’s greatest arenas, Arthur Ashe Stadium. But I’m sitting out for the people, for my Aussies, for the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have lost their lives.’

Kyrgios has been tireless and vehement on social media in criticising the behaviour of other ATP Tour players he deems to have acted irresponsibly, singling out the players who participated in Novak Djokovic’s Adria Tour and Alexander Zverev, who was filmed in a crowded bar after promising to self-isolate, in particular. And his US Open announcement included a rebuke to them in no uncertain terms:

‘But tennis players, you have to act in the interests of each other and work together. You can’t be dancing on tables, money-grabbing your way around Europe or trying to make a quick buck hosting an exhibition. That’s just so selfish.

‘Think of the other people for once. That’s what this virus is about. It doesn’t care about your world ranking, or how much money you have.’

World no. 1 Ashleigh Barty will not play at the 2020 US Open – and Andy Murray expects more top players to withdraw.

The US Open is scheduled to be played behind closed doors in New York from 31 August-13 September, but the WTA world no. 1 will not be leading the women’s field.

Australia’s Barty announced on Thursday that she will not be travelling to the USA for the US Open or the Western & Southern Open, the tournament to be played the week before in the same location.

Barty’s statement read:

‘My team and I have decided that we won’t be travelling to the US for the Western and Southern Open and the US Open this year.

‘I love both events so it was a difficult decision but there are still significant risks involved due to Covid-19 and I don’t feel comfortable putting my team and I in that position.

‘I wish the USTA all the best for the tournaments and look forward to being back in the US next year.’

There have been over 4.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in the USA and over 150,000 deaths. It is the hardest-hit nation in the world. The state of New York alone has had over 400,000 confirmed cases and more than 30,000 deaths.

Barty was a glaring absence on the player entry list for the Western & Southern Open, and many Australian players have expressed doubts about the prospect of travelling to the USA.

 

It is rumoured that the US Open is set to announce its final decision about whether or not it is going ahead on Friday, although organizers have insisted that the tournament will happen even after the cancellation of the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., due to be played two weeks before.

Andy Murray told media that he doesn’t expect Barty to be the last high-profile withdrawal.

 

Andy Murray has been in action this week at the Battle of the Brits Team Tennis event (PA Images)

 

‘I think we will see it quite a bit. I have heard some of the top male players aren’t going to play. I would expect that would be the case,’ Murray said, speaking at the Battle of the Brits Team Tennis tournament being played this week behind closed doors in Roehampton.

‘It’s everyone’s personal decision. If they don’t feel safe, and don’t feel comfortable, travelling and going there and putting themselves and their team at an increased risk, then it’s completely understandable.

‘All of the players will have some reservations and it’s whether or not you feel comfortable taking that risk. Like I said the other day, my feeling is once we are inside that bubble they created, we will be okay. It’s more the international travel, and getting there which I will be a bit concerned about it.’

The top two men’s players in the world, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, were both on the Western & Southern Open entry list, but that’s no particular guarantee that they will play. It’s certain that Gael Monfils, Fabio Fognini and Stan Wawrinka, among other significant men’s players, will not be travelling to the USA.

On the women’s side, Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Karolina Pliskova are among those who have committed to play the Western & Southern Open and US Open, but world no. 2 Simona Halep remains a question mark. The Romanian recently pulled out of the Palermo Open, citing rising COVID-19 numbers in her native country and anxieties about international air travel.

Players who do not travel to the USA might still compete at the French Open, rescheduled for 27 September-11 October. Barty, who won her maiden major at Roland Garros in 2019, said that she has not yet decided whether or not to travel to defend her title.

‘I will make my decision on the French Open and the surrounding WTA European tournaments in the coming weeks,’ she said.

Former world no. 1 Andy Murray says he is ‘apprehensive’ about the 2020 US Open, but planning to play.

Murray and Johanna Konta, the WTA no. 14 and British no. 1, both believe that the US Open looks set to go ahead despite the global health crisis.

The Grand Slam is scheduled to be played behind closed doors in New York from 31 August-13 September, but opinion is split on whether or not it will take place and if it does, how many top players will travel for it.

Murray said:

‘Four or five weeks ago, we were pretty sceptical about it. But mentally at some stage you need to start preparing and planning for that.

‘If it wasn’t happening, my schedule for practising, my rehab, would all be a bit different. Mentally I’m planning for it to go ahead.’

The three-time major champion hasn’t played a Grand Slam since the Australian Open in January 2019, shortly before he underwent a major hip operation. He was speaking to media ahead of this week’s Battle of the Brits Team Tennis event, at which he only reportedly plans to play doubles. Murray’s only tournament of any kind since last November was June’s Battle of the Brits, at which he reached the semifinals but later withdrew from the third-place play-off due to pain in his shins.

Murray said:

‘I’m still trying to build up to get ready for New York. It would be good for me to get some competitive matches in for sharpness and stuff, but there’s a lot of tennis this week and I don’t want to take any risks with the tournaments in the States just a few weeks away. Right now I’m training on the court four days a week.’

Players have been doubtful about the prospect of travelling to the USA, which has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world, for the US Open, fearing that they will need to quarantine upon arrival or return to Europe and either suspecting that the tournament will not be safe or chafing against safety measures such as limited entourage numbers. But if Murray is any indication, players might now be feeling more cautiously optimistic.

‘My feeling is that some sports have obviously come back and seem to have done pretty well. … The issue for us is the travel so, yeah, we’ll probably be a bit apprehensive getting over there. We’re getting tested before we arrive, so hopefully once we get there, the players, the staff and everyone are in this secure bubble and everything will be fine. That is my hope.

‘I was thinking about maybe travelling somewhere beforehand to get in a bit of hot-weather training but then you’re increasing your risk of catching the virus, which then means you can’t potentially train or travel for a couple of weeks, which could then put playing a grand slam in doubt. So there are things like that, where I’ve had to change my thinking.

‘Hopefully the US Open can go ahead and it’s OK. But if not, I’m also OK with that. It’s not like I’m saying it must go ahead. So long as it’s safe for the players, then we need to try to get back to competing when it’s safe to do so.’

Konta is also expecting the US Open to go ahead, saying:

‘Everything is pointing in the direction that it is going to go ahead. They have been quite vocal that they are pushing forwards. Just basing my opinion on all the information that is there, I think it probably will.

‘As far as I understand, as professional athletes I think we can come back without quarantining as of now. But I don’t know if that has changed in the last 12 hours.’

Konta was a quarterfinalist at last year’s US Open. She will be playing for the British Bulldogs at Battle of the Brits Team Tennis, and features on Monday’s lineup.