Andy Murray complained at the U.S. Open that his opponent might have flouted the rules during their 10-minute heat break Wednesday in what became a second-round loss for the 2012 champion.
Murray also said after he was beaten by No. 31 seed Fernando Verdasco 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 that the tournament did not do a good enough job of making clear exactly what is allowed and what isn't during the time away from the court. The U.S. Tennis Association decided on the fly to allow rest periods in men's matches for the first time in U.S. Open history as the temperature soared past 95 degrees (33 Celsius) this week.
While the women's rules already call for a break if the conditions are too extreme, there is no such provision for the men. But on Tuesday, the USTA offered men a chance to rest after the third set if they want, then applied that rule on Wednesday, too.
"I went for a shower. He was having an ice bath," Murray said about Verdasco. "When I came out of the shower ... one of the Spanish doubles players was in there chatting to him, and you're not allowed to speak to your coach. I went and told the supervisor. I said, 'What are you guys doing? I mean, there's clear rules here and you're allowing this to take place. I don't get it.'"
The USTA said players were not allowed to consult coaches during the heat breaks.
Verdasco said that's not what he was doing. He said he was chatting with another player and that player's coach.
"I didn't talk one word with my coach or any one member of my team," said Verdasco, who had been 1-13 against Murray head-to-head entering this match. "I know exactly the rule, and I don't want to be the one breaking it."
But Murray was upset that there wasn't better policing of players while they were off the court.
"This is one of the biggest events in the world. If you have rules like that, you need to stick with them, because one player getting to speak to the coach and the other not is not fair," said the three-time major champion and former No. 1.
"I shouldn't be in that position, in the middle of a match at a Slam, having to make sure they're doing their job," he said.
Murray also said he was never given a complete written list of the relevant rules.
"The players and teams should know. I'm not blaming Fernando and his team. They probably weren't aware that that was the rules. They certainly weren't trying to break any rules. It shouldn't be for the player that's competing against him to have to go to the supervisor," Murray said. "If I hadn't said anything, they would have been chatting, chatting about the match, giving tactics and stuff."
This was Murray's first major tournament in more than a year. After Wimbledon in 2017, he shut himself down for the rest of the season because of an injured hip, then eventually had an operation in January.
He returned to the tour this June, shortly before Wimbledon, but decided his body wasn't ready for best-of-five-set matches. So his Grand Slam return came at Flushing Meadows, instead, and lasted just two matches.
"Some of the tennis I played today was some of the best I've played since I had the surgery or since I came back," Murray said. "But there were also periods in the match, especially in the first set, where I really didn't play particularly well. ... There were too many ups and downs for my liking."