Andy Murray dragged himself from the court to his ice bath to the obligatory press conference and, in a voice as husky as an old crooner, revealed that a cold had hampered him during his epic five-set win over the Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in the second round of the US Open.
If he copes with it on his rest day ahead of meeting Thomaz Bellucci on Saturday, his progress into the second work of a tournament he won three years ago should not be significantly hampered. If the illness – which has taken hold in the locker room and already claimed his brother, Jamie – lingers, he could be in trouble.
In that context, he did extraordinarily well to come from two sets down against Mannarino, whom he handled without fuss in their only previous meeting. The French left-hander played intuitive tennis, mixing up his game with drop shots that teased the life out of Murray with flat-struck ground strokes off one of the shortest backswings on the Tour.
Murray took three hours and 17 minutes to win 5-7, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 on the tournament’s main court, Arthur Ashe, where a partially finished roof filtered the light and blocked the wind but could do nothing about the heat. The temperature hit 93F in late afternoon, as players and spectators alike sweltered
In a monumental fightback on a day so hot the young American Jack Sock collapsed on court and was carried semi-conscious and feet dragging, to the comfort of the medical room, Murray needed every ounce of his Caledonian grit to recover after an ordinary start.
Asked later if his croaking voice indicated a problem that might have affected his performance, he said, “A little bit, yeah. At the beginning of the match a little bit. But after the first couple games, feel fine really. Quite a few of the players have had head colds. My brother was quite sick yesterday, as well. I think there’s a few of the players have had it.”
Murray was on his knees, literally, after some of the longer rallies and used his racket as a crutch, a point he was quick to point out did not indicate extreme exhaustion.
“I was out of breath. I was bending over because I was tired. Normally after extremely long rallies you do that. It was extremely tough conditions, especially in the beginning of that fourth set, some unbelievable points kind of back-to-back with a lot of running. Yeah, I was tired. I wasn’t holding myself up with my racket. I was just bending over. That’s what I think a lot of people do when they’re out of breath or tired.”
Illness and tiredness aside, Murray should be worried that he allowed a player ranked 35 in the world boss him tactically for nearly an hour and a half before he launched his impressive comeback.
“I had quite a few opportunities, I felt. I think I was one for seven on break points or something. Like in the first set, 6-5, I had love-40 on his serve there to get back into it. I just wasn’t able to break at any of the important moments, unfortunately.
“When you’re not playing your best, you find a way to come through matches like that. Yeah, it can give you confidence. You feel a little bit like you’re fortunate to still be in the event and you’re a bit more maybe relaxed going into the next matches.
“But I’ve come through many tough matches in my career, and I think that’s why when you are behind like that in the scoreline, when you’ve done it in the past, you have the belief that you can come through and do it again. That definitely helped me here today.”