x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Janko Tipsarevic stops play for Andy Murray in Abu Dhabi

Serb dampens Scotsman's day after weather causes a rare interruption at beginning of World Tennis Championship, writes Steve Elling

Serbian Janko Tipsarevic outplayed Andy Murray in the capital yesterday.
Serbian Janko Tipsarevic outplayed Andy Murray in the capital yesterday.

It is not a word often used in these parts on tennis scoreboards.

At Wimbledon, sure. At plenty of other global venues, no question.

Yet a half-dozen shots into the opening match of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, players walked off the centre court at Zayed Sports City and the most improbable of terms flashed brightly on the video screen in the corner of the stadium.

Suspended.

A mist had drifted over the court just as the opening match between Scotland's Andy Murray and Serbia's Janko Tipsarevic began, leaving the line tape too wet, so officials ordered players off the court, whereupon they stood under umbrellas as attendants mopped up the traces of precipitation with towels. The delay lasted about five minutes.

A watershed moment for Murray, it was not.

Despite a rousing welcome from a throng of British expatriates at the Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex, the world No 3 mostly spun his wheels, which had little to do with the dicey footing in the opening moments.

Fresh off his breakthrough season, it was an utter washout for Murray as Tipsarevic took him apart 6-3, 6-4, in a scant one hour and 24 minutes.

Tipsarevic will face Spain's Nicolas Almagro in the semi-finals today, after the opening 3pm match concludes.

"The problem with drizzling is that the lines get slippery," Tipsarevic said. "One wrong move and you can be gone for a long time."

He got rid of Murray for the weekend, regardless.

Tipsarevic's steady serve not only kept Murray off balance, the Serbian kept applying baseline pressure and had the 25-year-old Scotsman running sprints to keep rally points alive.

Murray's famously sombre coach, Ivan Lendl, was not in Abu Dhabi this week, but they will have plenty to discuss before the Australian Open commences in three weeks time.

"Obviously, I have a lot to work on," Murray said.

It was a comprehensive thrashing, really. The erudite Serb has a famous quote from Fyodor Dostoyevsky tattooed on his arm reading, "Beauty will save the world."

For Murray, homely stretches ruined the evening.

"It was decent, I thought," Murray said. "Just execution of some of the shots, which is pretty normal when you haven't played in a while."

Murray was on his heels from the start, losing three straight games as Tipsarevic took a 4-1 lead in the opening set.

Murray fought off three set points, but Tipsarevic was sharper, far less tentative and held on with nary a bead of sweat, which is not another joke about the drizzle.

Murray never seemed to find any consistency - his three points in the opening set came when he won to-love on his own serve, but there was not much else to celebrate.

When Murray again had his serve broken to open the second set, digging a huge hole for himself, the fans tried to pump up the Scotsman from the grandstands, with one spectator yelling in a distinct British accent, "On you go, Andy."

Instead, off he went.

Murray had won four of their past five official meetings, though Tipsarevic had knocked his rival out of the Dubai Tennis Championships two years ago.

Camped along the baseline for nearly the entire match, the Serbian was content to let Murray make the mistakes, and the latter largely complied.

Asked somewhat in jest how many times he actually attacked the net, Tipsarevic thought for a moment and laughed.

"Not many," he said. "I probably should have done it more often."

There was no need. Murray accommodated him with more than enough miscues.

At one point, after an unforced error in the second set resulted in Murray depositing another passing shot into the net, he banged his racket against his hand, stared at his shoes and muttered something under his breath.

Rust was evident, and it had nothing to do with the evening's dose of precipitation.

"You just need to play more matches," Murray said.

No question. They just will not be this week.

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