MURRAY treating his US Open clash with Kyrgios as just another match, despite all the headlines, writes Alix Ramsay
Nick Kyrgios should expect little by way of sympathy or favours when he faces Andy Murray in the first round of the US Open on Tuesday, but until they step out on court the Australian has found a new champion in the Scot.
He might come and do something completely different against me
Their match has made the headlines in New York, but for all the wrong reasons. Kyrgios got himself into trouble at the Canadian Open a couple of weeks ago for insulting Stan Wawrinka and the Swiss’s girlfriend, Donna Vekic, during their second-round match. That earned him a huge fine and a 28 day ban, suspended for six months. The local media are not only expecting fireworks on Tuesday, they are praying for them.
But Murray is taking the showdown as just another first-round match. He has played the Australian firebrand three times in the past and has won each time. Kyrgios may be big, powerful and unpredictable, but the world No.3 has always been able to handle the challenge. As for Kyrgios’s behaviour, Murray thinks that is all part of growing up.
“It’s not about me coming out in favour of him,” Murray explained. “He’s a young guy, and we all make mistakes. Everyone that’s here listening to this, when they were 19, 20 has done some bad things and made mistakes. For him, it happens in front of millions of people and I just think that it’s wrong, a lot of the things he’s done, but I also think that he’s still a young guy and people mature, grow up at different rates.
“Not everyone’s exactly the same. Everyone is different. He’ll learn. I don’t think he’s a bad guy. I don’t think he’s a bad person at all.
“He’s an unbelievably talented guy with a lot of potential. He’s going to be around the top of the game for a while. I think a little bit of patience is important when it comes to Nick, because he’s a young guy and it’s not easy growing up in the spotlight. It’s not easy.
“For me it’s just a tennis match. I’ll just go about the match in the best way possible, by getting all the tactics and everything sorted. I’ll tailor my practices the next few days around his game style. That’s what I’ll be doing. You obviously don’t pay attention to the other stuff.”
With a third of the season still to go, Murray has already played 65 matches – and won 56 of them – and he has barely had a moment’s rest since the start of the clay court season. Now, with the most brutal of the four grand slams to come, he has obviously played enough matches (he won the title in Montreal and reached the semi-finals in Cincinnati the week after) so now it is just a matter of shepherding his resources for one more major push.
“It’s been busy,” he said. “There are obviously positives and negatives to that. I feel confident I’m hitting the ball well. I’ve played quite a lot of matches so my body is match-tight, which is good. I’ve also played a couple of long matches in the last few weeks as well, which is also physically very good preparation for here. It’s the last major of the year so obviously these next three or four weeks for me are a big few weeks, with Davis Cup as well.
“I took a couple of days off after Cincinnati. Then I came here and practised for a few days. I practised off-site yesterday and the next couple of days I’ll be here training. But I’m doing a lot of short specific work, not like loads of long sessions. I’m doing shorter, more specific work, because I feel like I’ve done enough work the last few weeks and I just need to get my game ready for the beginning of the event.”
That Murray is match-fit, match-tight and ready is all to the good. Kyrgios is as erratic as he is talented and even if he bombed out of the Cincinnati Masters in the first round last week (he took just three games from Richard Gasquet), that is not to say that he will not come out all guns blazing against the Scot. And just because Murray has not dropped a set to Kyrgios in their three meetings, that does not necessarily mean that he will be allowed to dominate again on Tuesday.
“Every match is a new match,” Murray said. “You can obviously learn from previous matches and see what things worked and what things didn’t. But he might come in and do something completely different against me this time, so I need to be prepared for that. He’s quite an unpredictable player, so you need to expect that when you go on the court. I’ve played well against him the three times we’ve played. I’ve played good matches. But he’s obviously a top player. He obviously just missed out on a seeding here and I’m sure he’ll be one of the top players at this event in the next few years.
“In the past, I’ve played smart tennis against him, tried to come up with a game plan that’s made it tough for him. If you watch the matches, you’ll see what I’ve been doing.
“I’ve tried to mix my game up, that’s my game style, something I’ve worked on the last 18 months or so. It’s worked well for me this year for sure and I’ll try to do the same here.”