After an unprecedented afternoon for the former World. No. 1, Andy Murray came through his first-round match at the Winston-Salem Open, but it was not the match he expected to play against his friend Nick Kyrgios.
Citing an ongoing left knee injury, the Australian withdrew from the tournament earlier in the evening with a 7 p.m. start time still on the books. Not wanting to jeopardize his campaign in New York next week at the U.S. Open, Kyrgios said he had to make a tough call.
“I had to listen to my body and give myself some more time,” Kyrgios said. “I don’t go to a tournament to just play a match and pull out. I just need to get this right. I want to give myself the best shot at the U.S. Open.”
The withdraw created a conundrum for tournament organizers who sought a lucky loser to play Murray.
Two players passed on the chance to face the Scotsman, Max Purcell and Pierre-Hughes Herbert. Yosuke Watanuki already had direct admission as a lucky loser.
That left Noah Rubin.
Rubin had just completed a two-hour battle against Lucas Pouille, falling 4-6, 7-6, 6-2, when he learned he could play Murray in the main draw. The 24-year-old Long Islander had roughly half an hour before he took the court again.
Unfortunately, the brutal August humidity and the physicality of playing a formidable opponent like Murray caught up to the former Wake Forest Demon Deacon men’s tennis stand out. The cramps came for Rubin who could barely limp off the court after five sets of tennis in one long afternoon.
“It was my by far the strangest situation I have ever been in before a match. It’s pretty rare that you experience something new when you’re 17 years into your career,” Murray said.
“Noah was a great replacement for Nick. It was great for the crowd, and I didn’t know he went to university here. It was just unfortunate he wasn’t able to give his best effort.” The three-time Slam champion added, “It is a real shame tonight, but it was nice that it was packed.”
And it will likely be packed again when Murray faces American Frances Tiafoe in the second round. The day and time for that battle is yet to be set.
Other winners in main draw play include Marco Cecchinato, Mikael Ymer, Soon-Woo Kwon, Thiago Monteiro Marcus Giron, Egor Gerasimov and Giles Simon.
The Simon win sets up a must-see meeting against No. 12 seed French countryman Benoit Paire, the Winston-Salem Open singles runner-up in 2019.
Monday’s matches begin with doubles at 2 p.m. when two more Frenchman, No. 2 seeds Nicolas Mahut and Fabrice Martin, will kick things off against Tomislav Brkic and Nikola Cacic.
Gates open for fans at 1 p.m.