Andy Murray waits for test results as he tries to solve cramping issues ahead of US Open
With three days to go before the start of the US Open, Andy Murray is sweating on his test results.
When he left Wimbledon, beaten in the second round by John Isner, he made it his task to haul his ranking – then No 52 in the world – up into the world’s top 32 to secure himself a seeding for the last grand slam event of the year. But in the four tournaments he has played, he has won just three matches – a poor return due in no small part to regular bouts of cramp. This week, he is No 49 in the world order.
At the age of 35 and with nearly two decades as a professional behind him, this new problem comes as a perplexing surprise. He did suffer from cramp in his very early days when, as a young and spindly teenager, the combination of the excitement and tension of playing his first matches in the spotlight – and doing so against older, stronger men – would cause his muscles to seize. But those days are long behind him.
“No one knows exactly why people get cramps,” Murray said on Wednesday in Manhattan. “Some people think it can be hydration related, conditioning related, stress related, whether you’ve not eaten the right stuff – there can be a number of factors that go into it. It could be an underlying illness. And we’re just trying to get some answers to that.
“I’m doing sweat testing today in these conditions to see if anything has changed in that respect because the sports drinks and electrolytes that I drink, they are made specifically based on my sweat tests. But I haven’t done sweat testing for quite a number of years.
“If it was purely from hydration, let’s say, then obviously after I got cramp in Washington, I made sure that I was not dehydrated going into the next matches. If it was eating related, I made sure all of those boxes were ticked. I haven’t been more stressed playing in the first round of Washington this summer compared to the final of a slam. And I cramped in practice yesterday. So there’s probably a little bit more to it so I need to get some answers.”
The frustration for Murray is that, for the most part, his body is in better shape now than it has been since his right hip gave out on him in 2017. But ever since he set foot on American soil last month, he has been cramping.
“In terms of where my body is today in comparison to last year, for example, I’m in a much better place physically,” he said. “It’s been really good. There’s been no need for me to take anti-inflammatories for matches or tournaments which hasn’t really been the case for the last few years.”
He was expecting some test results to come back by Wednesday night with the others due over the next couple of days. And while he can do little about his basic level of fitness before the Open begins on Monday, he is hopeful that the tests will turn up a solution.
“If there is something else there that I could potentially change – whether it’s in eating or drinking or whatever, or illness or something, there’s a possibility that could change pretty quickly,” he said.
But even if he and his doctors can resolve the physical issues, there still remains one major problem: winning matches. Too many times this year, Murray has created opportunities for himself and then been unable to take them. The men he has lost to have not necessarily been better tennis players than him but they have seized the moment – when they got their chances, they took them. When Murray has manufactured an opening, he has often let it slip.
“From the tennis side of things this year, I’ve had some good wins and some tough losses,” he said. “If I could have turned some of those around, like in the match against Cam [Norrie] last week – I had enough opportunities and maybe that opens the week up and I can get a good run going. But it’s not quite happened at one of the big events yet. So that’s been disappointing.”
It has been five, long years since Murray was able to play the relentless schedule that is required of those at the very top of the game. Back in those days, he could rely on his instincts when the pressure mounted; he did not have to overthink the situation. Today, now that his body is more or less willing to let him play more regularly – the current cramping problem aside – it is his game is letting him down when he has done all the hard work.
“Probably it’s just trusting in my game a little bit more and knowing exactly what I want to do in those moments and then executing it,” he suggested. “At times I’ve done it and at times, I haven’t and it’s just not been consistent enough.”
Over the best of five sets in the coming week, Murray will have a little more time to recover from those missed opportunities. Yet taking the scenic route past the opposition takes a bigger toll on his fragile body.
The US Open champion of 2012 has a lot more sweating ahead of him in the heat and humidity of New York if he is to get his wish of a decent run at this year’s Open.
Andy Murray is wearing The Drive Collection from his signature AMC range during this year’s US Open, created to deliver a new standard in tennis performance clothing. View the kit at www.castore.com/collections/amc