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Tennis Tsitsipas Loses To Andrey Rublev • Kyle Edmund Loses And More

By Alix Ramsay

The thud could be heard in New Jersey. It was the sound of Stefanos Tsitsipas returning to earth – and reality – with an almighty crash. For the second time in two months, the man with the flowing locks, the flowing game and the celebrity status of a matinee idol had lost in the first round of a grand slam.

At Wimbledon it had been Thomas Fabbiano who had done the damage in five sets; this time is was Andrey Rublev who pricked Tsitsipas’s bubble, beating the Greek in four sets and a little under four hours 6-4, 6-7, 7-6, 7-5. Rublev was good but Tsitsipas was all over the place. Then again, he has been ever since he lost to Stan Wawrinka in the fourth round at Roland Garros.

It all started to go downhill on Tuesday when Tsitsipas was given a warning for coaching. As the photographers’ lenses panned across to the players’ box, they picked out Apostolos Tsitsipas, Stef’s dad, and a certain Patrick Mouratoglou, a chap with previous in the courtside coaching department at Flushing Meadows. Remember last year’s women’s final? ‘Nuff said.

“It’s not very pleasant when you have the umpire give you warnings and time violations and coaching violations during a match,” Tsitsipas whinged. “It can affect your thinking. It can affect your decision-making.

“And I sometimes believe there is nothing to give there. I can tell you, I can tell my honest truth of what I feel, if I feel sometimes if my dad is coaching, I’m so concentrated in that match there is no way I’m going to think of what my dad tells me from the outside.”

Tsitsipas was then hauled up for a time violation, one that Rublev pointed out to the umpire, Damien Dumusois. While the Frenchman in the chair did as Rublev suggested and handed out the warning, he followed up by telling the Russian: “Let me do my job, Andrey!”. If Tsitsipas was going to get done for coaching from the box, Rublev was not getting away with coaching the ump from the baseline.

All of this was unpicking the fragile psyche of the world No.8. What appeared to be an unshakable belief in his own abilities at the start of the year (when he was heading to the Australian Open semi-finals) was now frayed and tattered and flapping in the breeze. Turning on Dumusois in the fourth set, Tsitsipas let rip.

“I don’t care. Do whatever you want because you’re the worst. For some reason you have something against me, I don’t know what you have….because you’re French, probably. And, and you’re all weirdos. You’re all weirdos…. Give me a warning, I don’t care, give me a warning, yeah give me warning.”

So Dumusois did – he gave him a warning and a point penalty.

It didn’t get any better, either. In that fourth set, Tsitsipas was clearly struggling with some sort of physical problem. What it was, he would not say, but for most of that final set, he was hobbling around, stretching his back and his right leg, grimacing and shuffling along the baseline looking for all the world like a ballerina with a hernia. In between crumpling in a heap, squatting on his haunches and wincing a lot, there were the vague stabs at arabesques and occasional, fluffed grand battements which, when performed on only one working leg, did not make for a good look.

And all the while Rublev stuck to his guns. Only when he came to serve for the match did he come unstuck. Two consecutive double faults, the second of which barely reached the net, cost him that service game but when he went to serve for the match again, he made no mistake.

If Tsitsipas had a serious injury, he was not letting on. If he was suffering from cramp, he was keeping quiet. On a cool day with no humidity, it seemed unthinkable that a top player could be cramping. Unless, of course, he was beset by nerves and pressure. And after his lousy run of form since losing at the French Open, that might just be what ails him. The memories of that loss to Wawrinka simply will not go away.

“It’s in the back of my head somewhere,” he said. “I still feel it. I still feel the pain of that loss. I’m trying to erase it from my memory and move on, because there were players with similar situations in the career which affected their career. I don’t want to be that player. I want to be tough mentally, and I want to constantly improve, become better. I cannot let things like that get into the way.

“I feel like I’m doing the same thing over and over again, and my brain can’t really take it anymore. I feel like I’m doing the same routines on the court, the same execution, the same – I mean, same strategies and everything. And I feel like my mind is just… I don’t feel inspired. I play out on the court, and I don’t feel like I’m chasing something.”

Rublev, though, is definitely chasing something. In the past two weeks, he has beaten Roger Federer, Wawrinka and now Tsitsipas. Now he faces Gilles Simon for a place in the third round. The Russian is chasing a decent run at the Open.

And just for the record, Tsitsipas’s Wimbledon tormentor, Fabbiano, was at it again on Tuesday, sending an ailing Dominic Thiem packing 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. To be fair to Thiem, he has been suffering from an ear infection for the past couple of weeks and was clearly not at his best. Tsitsipas had no such excuse.

Meanwhile, out on Court 13, there was evidence of the USTA’s forward planning. Sure enough, the past couple of days have been very pleasant – temperatures in the low to mid 70s and the air nice and dry – but we all know how things can change. Last year, we were smothered by the oppressive heat to such a degree that the tournament cobbled together a new heat rule to allow both the men and the women to have 10 minutes cooling down time at certain stages of their matches.

To complement that new rule, the organisers have now put air conditioning units out on court. Unfortunately, no one mentioned this to the punters before they settled into watch Kyle Edmund take on Pablo Andujar so you can imagine the comments when Britain’s No.1 sat down at the change of ends and positioned a large, black hosepipe in his lap while a motorised pump kicked into action beside him. No, really, it was an a/c unit pumping cold air over the tour’s palest man (Kyle is from Yorkshire and is not so much pale of skin as translucent. If it is warm enough for normal people to take their sweaters off, Kyle looks ready to expire).

Sadly, even with this personal cooling system, our Kyle was not long for this tournament. He lost 3-6, 7-6, 7-5, 5-7, 6-2.

Sure enough, he has a thumping forehand and a good serve, but he also has all the fighting spirit of a wet lettuce. It was another dismal result for the Yorkshireman and the only point of note was that it was the longest match of the tournament so far at four hours and 21 minutes. Unfortunately, it just seemed longer.

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