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Kyrgios out of US Open but Murray ‘willing to take the risk’

hannahwilks in US Open 03 Aug 2020
Andy Murray in action at Battle of the Brits Team Tennis (PA Images)

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.’