On one side of the net: Murray, the World no. 3, who has played some of the best tennis of his career throughout a stunningly consistent season but has failed to win a Grand Slam, facing either his last chance of the season at the US Open or the dreary chance of his earliest exit at a Slam since losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the first round of the Australian Open back in 2008.
On the other: Kyrgios, unseeded, desperate to get the focus back on his tennis after an on-court taunt aimed at Stan Wawrinka in Montreal went viral and left his behavior under a microscope from the media and the sport’s governing bodies, with a one-month suspension hanging over his head if he fails to clean up his act at ATP World Tour-sanctioned events (i.e. not Grand Slams).
Murray has won every match he has played against Kyrgios in straight sets (only 2 sets have been 6-4 or better) including victories on hard courts at last year’s Canada Masters and the Australian Open back in January. But Murray knows that, like the Tsonga he lost to in 2008, Kyrgios has the raw power and touch to blow away any opponent if he gets hot and, having played the Australian twice in Grand Slams (most recently in the third round of the French Open, he knows that Kyrgios relishes the big stage.
It would definitely be a mistake to underestimate Kyrgios, or to expect him to retreat into his shell after what happened in Montreal: The 20-year-old, who has wins over Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on his resume already, may say he’s learned his lesson but also says he’s ‘not embarrassed’ by the incident or the fall-out from it. We probably shouldn’t anticipate a chastened, more low-key Kyrgios to take the court on Tuesday. Indeed, he can be expected to relish the big stage and the chance to pull off a win against a top opponent – and perhaps even the opportunity to play the villain for the Arthur Ashe crowds.
In other words, it’s definitely going to be Kyrgios’s tennis, not his behavior, which concerns Murray on Tuesday. Murray’s impeccable defense and variety of the ground have always frustrated Kyrgios into impatient errors in the past, but there’s always a danger that that balance can slide into too much passivity from Murray. The third seed also has to worry about trying to win as quickly as possible in order to conserve energy, crucial with so many miles on his legs at this point of the season and with his tricky draw. It’s impossible to tell what you are going to get from Kyrgios, but on the big stage, against a top opponent, feeling like he has nothing to lose, it’s a perfect scenario for him to swing freely and push Murray harder than he ever has before. Could we be in for a huge shock on just the second day of the US Open?
PREDICTION – Murray in 4 sets
Expect Kyrgios’ to put up a valiant fight against the British No.1 but Murray should have control of this one!!
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