Murray, who won his first Major in New York in 2012, has been hampered by a hip injury since the end of the French Open, where he lost to Stan Wawrinka in a four-and-a-half-hour battle in the semis. The problem was still evident during the grass season, and Murray lost in the first round of the Aegon Championships, where he was defending champion.
Despite limping through many of his practice sessions at the All England Club, he then reached the quarters at Wimbledon, but was clearly in pain by the conclusion of his five-set contest with Sam Querrey, and has not played another match since.
He came to his pre-tournament press conference after an intensive practice session this morning, and it was immediately clear that he was upset. He wiped away tears as he explained his decision.
“Obviously had the issue with the hip over what’s actually been since my match with Stan in Paris.
“Did pretty much everything that I could to get myself ready here and took a number of weeks off after Wimbledon. I obviously spoke to a lot of hip specialists. Tried resting, rehabbing, to get myself ready here.
“Was actually practising OK the last few days, but it’s too sore for me to win the tournament and ultimately that’s what I was here to try and do. Unfortunately, I won’t be playing here this year.”
It is the first time since he played his first main draw match here in 2005, when the teenager won his opening match, that Murray has missed the US Open. He reached his Major final here in 2008, losing to Roger Federer, and has a 44-11 record in the tournament.
He went on to reassure the media that he had not taken any chances by trying to prepare for the tournament.
“I certainly wouldn’t have been hurting myself more by trying to play. It was more a question of whether it would settle down in time. I kind of ran out of time…
“You know, I have never had to take any time off because of my hip before, so we were hoping that by taking a few weeks off and resting and rehabbing and really reducing the load that I was putting it through that I would be OK by the time US Open came around, but unfortunately that’s not been the case.”
He remained uncertain what the prognosis would be, or the treatment that may be required.
“Obviously, I spoke to a number of specialists to get the best advice possible, and when you speak to a lot, there are different views and opinions on what is the best thing to do moving forward, and that’s a decision I’ll need to take now. I’ll definitely make a decision on that in the next few days. That’s something that I’ll sit down and decide with my team. But I’ll decide in the next couple of days, for sure.”
His withdrawal comes too late to promote Federer to the No2 seeding: The Swiss, at No3, was drawn in the half topped by No1 Rafael Nadal. With the absence of last year’s finalists, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka, for the rest of the year with their own injury woes, it leaves 20-year-old Alexander Zverev as the highest ranked man in the bottom half.
The young German, fresh from winning his second Masters title in Montreal, is at a career-high No6, but he has won only one match at the US Open in two previous visits. However, because the withdrawal came before a match was played, there has been a modest reshuffle of other seeds.
No5 seed and former champion Marin Cilic moves into Murray’s place at the bottom of the draw, and No17 seed Querrey moves from Federer’s eighth into Cilic’s spot and a possible quarter-final against Zverev. Unseeded Philipp Kohlschreiber moves into Federer’s section, with Lucky Loser Lukas Lacko taking his place in the draw.
Murray had avoided most of the biggest dangers in his quarter, opening against the world No104 Tennys Sandgren and with No8 seed, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, his highest ranked opponent. The Frenchman has been in search of form through the US Open Series: He lost in the first round in both Montreal and Cincinnati.
But Murray remains hopeful of following the example of Federer and Nadal, who both missed extensive periods due to injury last year and bounced back to win all three Majors and four Masters this season.
“If I get myself fit and healthy, there is no reason why I can’t. I have been practising here and competitive in practice when I’m not moving close to how I can when I’m healthy.
“Look, I want to be back on court as soon as I can. If it means that I can play before the end of the year, then that’s what I would love to do. I miss competing, and I’ll try to get myself back on court as soon as I can.
“But obviously I’ll need to make the correct decision and really think it through these next couple of days with my team, and then make that decision.”
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BIOGRAPHY: Ethan Hazard
BIOGRAPHY: Daniel Sturridge