NEW YORK -- Spinning in 70 mph second serves, grabbing at his hamstring during points, Andy Murray gritted his way through head-to-toe cramps to win at the U.S. Open.
Murray outlasted Robin Haase 6-3, 7-6 (6), 1-6, 7-5 in the first round Monday during an afternoon that was hot but not particularly humid. He was mystified that the cramps came on so early -- at the start of the third set after only about an hour and a half on court.
"When it starts to kind of go everywhere, you don’t know exactly where it’s going to creep up next," he said. "When you stretch one muscle, something else then cramps, too."
It started in the back of his left shoulder, then quickly spread to his forearm. The right-handed Murray couldn’t toss the ball high enough to get any pace on his serves.
Between points, he’d twist his body to awkwardly stretch his left side. After hitting a winner, he’d reach for his quad.
Murray was twice down a break in the fourth set, but the 70th-ranked Haase unraveled with a string of unforced errors. He wasted three break points in the final game, when a missed call also cost him.
The eighth-seeded Murray had felt confident in his conditioning after productive training sessions in Miami, where he weathered far more heat and humidity than this. He wondered if something was amiss in his nutrition.
"Cramping in my left forearm?" a bewildered Murray said.
Haase, also bothered by some cramping, said he didn’t eat and drink enough beforehand because of an earlier-than-expected start -- the first match on Louis Armstrong Stadium lasted just 47 minutes.
But Murray didn’t think dehydration was his problem, indicating he didn’t have any gastrointestinal problems.
Serving for the fourth set at 5-3, Haase double-faulted on break point to allow Murray to get back on serve. Murray then went up 6-5 when he took Haase’s second serve high and whacked a forehand winner.
With Murray trying to serve out the match, Haase smacked a deep return on his second break point that might have won him the game. But the ball was called out, and after it was overturned on review, they had to replay the point. This time, Haase hit a volley into the net.
Murray is notorious for suddenly clutching at an ailment after a poorly played point. On this day, though, the misery was clearly real. The two-time major champion went after winners to shorten points, tried to stay upright to keep the strain off his legs. It was just enough to eke out the victory.
"I don’t think if it would have gone to five sets I would’ve been the favorite," Murray said.
Three years ago, he and Haase did go five in New York, with Murray rallying from a two-set deficit to win in the second round.
After Monday’s loss, Haase planned to complain to the ATP that he was denied treatment during the match for a sore foot. But the Dutchman insisted he wasn’t distracted by Murray’s shows of discomfort.
"I was more busy with myself, and I was struggling myself," Haase said. "I tried to play my game. It didn’t bother me what he did."
Ninth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga also needed four sets to beat Juan Monaco 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-1. Nick Kyrgios -- the Australian teen who stunned Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon -- came back from three code violations, just one outburst away from default, in a 7-5, 7-6 (4), 2-6, 7-6 (1) upset of 21st-seeded Mikhail Youzhny.
Maria Sharapova and Novak Djokovic were to play under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium in the first night session of the year’s last Grand Slam tournament.
Earlier, 21st-seeded American Sloane Stephens advanced by routing Annika Beck.
Second-ranked Simona Halep rallied from a set down for a 6-7 (2), 6-1, 6-2 victory over 20-year-old Danielle Rose Collins, who was playing her first main draw match at a tour-level event. As a sophomore at Virginia, an unseeded Collins won the NCAA title to earn a wild card into the U.S. Open.
Venus stings foe
NEW YORK (AP) -- Venus Williams started with a soft forehand, shifted to a gentle backhand and even tried to blow away a most pesky opponent. She kept moving from sideline to sideline, yet still couldn’t shake free at the U.S. Open.
Not until three attendants came onto the court to help did Williams escape what was bugging her Monday -- a bee that wanted to land on her racket.
"The bee was a challenge," the two-time Queen Bee of Flushing Meadows said after beating Kimiko Date-Krumm 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the first round.
The prematch buzz was all about the ages of the players. Williams is 34, Date-Krumm is 43 and their combined 77 years was believed to be the oldest for opponents in a women’s Grand Slam pairing, the WTA said.
"According to Kimiko, I’ve got another decade," Williams said.
"Definitely, I was younger today," she said. "But when you step onto the court, no one is thinking about age. It’s just a number."
Earlier in the match, a bee interrupted Date-Krumm’s serve. She refused to kill it, and instead parried the insect.
Then with the 19th-seeded Williams ahead 3-0 in the final set, a bee flew close to Williams as she prepared to serve.
After her Japanese opponent "showed such class" in handling the flying nuisance, "I would’ve been remiss to swat it," Williams said.
"I came up with a strategy to follow her example," she said.
Williams spent more than a minute trying to get away, waving her hand and blowing at the bee. While some fans shouted "Smash it!", Williams refused to take a full, serious swing.
Eventually, two ball persons and a helper came out with towels and corralled the bee and carried it off as the crowd cheered.
"He’s on his way," Williams said.
Williams last won the U.S. Open in 2001 and has been slowed by health problems in recent years. But she beat younger sister Serena this month in reaching the final at the Rogers Cup in Montreal and, asked Monday whether she felt old on the court, answered, "not yet."
Date-Krumm turns 44 next month, and fell to 0-4 against Williams in a match that lasted over 2 hours.
Down 5-0 in the third set, Date-Krumm won three straight games. At deuce in the final game, she missed an easy shot and crouched at the net for a full 10 seconds, thinking about the chance that got away.
Williams won the match on the next point, and Date-Krumm met her with a smile when it was over.