WASHINGTON: Three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray of Britain crashed out in the opening round of the ATP and WTA Washington Open on Monday, falling to Sweden’s Mikael Ymer.
The 35-year-old Scotsman fell to 115th-ranked Ymer 7-6 (10/8), 4-6, 6-1 after two hours and 50 minutes at the US Open tuneup tournament.
“I’m excited,” said Ymer, who saved four set points in the first set. “A lot left to do but it’s a very good start of the American swing.”
World number 50 Murray, the 2012 and 2016 Olympic champion, is trying to earn a seeding at the US Open, which he won a decade ago.
“It’s still possible,” Murray said. “I would just need to have a good run in Canada or Cincinnati really. It’s pretty straightforward if I was to make a quarterfinal or a semifinal, which right now — after a loss like that — doesn’t seem realistic.
“I do feel like if I play very well that I could do that. But I’ll need to certainly play better than I did today.”
Ymer, who lost his only career ATP final last August in Winston-Salem, will next face 15th seed Aslan Karatsev.
Ymer won 75 percent of his first-serve points, 49-of-65, and smashed 37 winners past Murray, who made only 25 with 35 unforced errors, five more than Ymer.
Murray had a set point in the 12th game of the first set but sent a backhand wide and Ymer held into a tiebreaker.
Murray had three more set points in the tiebreak but Ymer smashed two forehand winners and a forehand volley winner to pull level at 7-7, prompting Murray to toss his racquet in frustration. Ymer, 23, took the set on a backhand volley winner.
“Had chances in the first set to close that out,” Murray said. “Didn’t get it. Yeah, frustrating.”
While Murray clawed back to force a third set, Ymer raced to a 4-0 lead, they exchanged breaks on double faults and Ymer ended the match on a backhand crosscourt winner.
Murray said he will explore why he has had cramping issues in his past two matches when he often thrives in heat and humidity.
“I started cramping at the end of the first set, Murray said. “After that, you’re just trying to find a way to get through the match.
“Need to have a little look at that with my team and maybe see why that is, make a few changes.”
Two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep, coming off a Wimbledon semi-final run, beat Spanish qualifier Cristina Bucsa 6-3, 7-5.
“Always the first round is difficult when you change the surface,” third seed Halep said. “I know it’s going to take time to make the game more solid.”
US top seed Jessica Pegula cruised 6-2, 6-2, over US wildcard Hailey Baptiste.
Pegula won the most recent WTA Washington event in 2019 after two missed years due to Covid-19.
“It definitely feels weird,” Pegula said. “It’s great to be back.”
Edmund wins ATP return
Britain’s Kyle Edmund made a triumphant return to ATP singles after three left knee surgeries and a 20-month layoff by defeating Japanese qualifier Yosuke Watanuki 6-4, 7-6 (10/8).
Edmund, who next faces British 16th seed Daniel Evans, played in his first tour-level singles match since October 2020 at Vienna, a month before his first operation.
“I didn’t find it easy today,” said Edmund. “I hung in there and I got my reward in the end.”