Stefanos Tsitsipas wasn’t playing at the U.S. Open on Tuesday, but he still was dominating the conversation. Players and press alike were obsessed over his long breaks and alleged coaching, whether he was just bending the rules or brazenly cheating.
Andy Murray, after he lost to Tsitsipas in five sets in the first round Monday, ripped the 23-year-old for taking extended breaks during play in a match that lasted nearly five hours.
Article I, Section W, Paragraph 4 of the 2021 Grand Slam rule book limits women (who play best-of-three-sets) to one trip off court and men (best-of-five) to two trips “for a reasonable time for a toilet break, a change of attire break, or both.”
Fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev, who last week in Cincinnati accused Tsitsipas of getting mid-match coaching, joked that the third-seeded Greek star could “go to the moon and back on a toilet break,” tactics he found unbecoming of a player of that stature.
“It’s not normal,” said Zverev, who won gold at the Tokyo Olympics and is riding a 12-match winning streak after cruising to a 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 first-round rout of American Sam Querrey on Tuesday. “I do not believe that [Tsitsipas] needs to do that, because if you’re top three in the world, you’re one of the best in the sport. These kind of things happen at junior events, at futures, at challengers maybe, but not when you’re top three in the world. You are allowed to do that, but it’s an unwritten rule between players.
“He’s gone for 10-plus minutes. His dad is texting on the phone. He comes out, and all of a sudden his tactic completely changed. It’s not just me but everybody saw it. The whole game plan changes. Either it’s a very magical place he goes to, or there is communication there. But I also don’t want to disrespect him. He’s a great player. He’s No. 3 in the world for a reason. … But I do believe, and Andy said it as well, there’s some level of respect that everybody needs to have between players.”
Murray had said he lost respect for Tsitsipas after their first-round clash. American Reilly Opelka took a different tack entirely, pointing his finger at the press instead of another player. The big bearded Floridian, one of 15 Americans in the bottom half of the draw Tuesday, dispatched Kwon Soonwoo 7-6 (3), 6-4, 6-4 in the first round, then dissed the media.
“It’s a ridiculous. I understand it’s getting press because tennis is lame and tennis media sucks and they’re terrible,” Opelka said. “It’s hot and humid. And for the press that have never stepped foot on a tennis court in their life, never been in the environment, couldn’t last 30 minutes out in this humidity, in this heat. It’s physical, our sport is.
“My shoes are dripping, they’re leaking sweat. … After two sets, we’re drinking, we’re hydrating a lot, we have to use the bathroom. To change my socks, shoes, my inserts in my shoes, shorts, shirt, everything, the whole 9 yards, hat, it takes 5, 6 minutes. Then by the time I walk to and from the court …
“I don’t know Tsitsipas. I doubt he’s getting coached. I highly doubt it. … I don’t think we should have on-court coaching at all, but I strictly go to change because it’s hot and it’s humid. If people don’t understand that, then clearly they’ve never spent a day in the life of a professional athlete or come close to it.”
If Opelka was that sweaty, it was purely from the humidity, not the competition, as he needed just 1 hour 40 minutes to dispatch Soonwoo.
Tied as the tallest ATP player ever at 6-foot-11, Opelka came into a Grand Slam seeded for the first time. He looked the part with 55 winners, 33 of them via aces. A powerful server with a power-forward frame, he reached 141 mph and hit more aces in the final set (14) than his foe did all day.
“Guys know what I’m doing out here. That’s the beauty of it for me. They know what I’m doing and I know that they know; but I’m sticking to my guns, and if they can get by, too good,” said Opelka, who will face Lorenzo Musetti in the second round. “That also helps keep me calm. I have a lot of clarity for what I’m doing.”
— With AP