NEW YORK, September 8- Andy Murray’s earliest Grand Slam exit in five years came Monday at the US Open, but not in Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the British star hoisted the trophy in 2012.
With Americans John Isner and Donald Young championing host-nation hopes at Ashe, whose under-construction roof has stilled once-blustery winds, the third-seeded Scotsman was sent to Louis Armstrong Stadium for his fourth-round match against South African 15th seed Kevin Anderson.
“That court is a lot quicker than Ashe,” Murray said. “I felt like I was on the back foot quite a lot. Wasn’t able to play that offensively.”
That proved too great a hindrance to overcome as the 28-year-old Briton lost 7-6 (7/5), 6-3, 6-7 (2/7), 7-6 (7/0) after four hours and 18 minutes.
Not since the 2010 US Open has Murray crashed out so early in a Grand Slam event, a run of 18 consecutive quarter-finals ended by the lanky African, who fired 25 aces and 81 winners.
“Playing against Kevin on the court of that speed, and with him serving as well as he does, it’s a tricky match,” Murray said.
“It comes down to a few points in each set. He managed to get them today.”
Anderson had lost all 15 prior matches against top-10 foes and all seven prior fourth-round Grand Slam appearances.
Murray had played and practiced on windy Armstrong, but the conditions added to the difficulties in facing Anderson on his favorite surface.
“I practiced on the court before the tournament and practiced very well on it. But it’s tricky,” Murray said.
“I’ve been playing on Ashe. Because of the conditions, Ashe is sheltered from the wind now, a bit slower. Armstrong is a tighter court which is very open. You get a lot of wind.
“It’s different conditions and something you need to just try and adjust to.
“I had my opportunities but didn’t manage to capitalize on them. When you’re playing against someone as good as him it’s tough. He served extremely well.”
Anderson ripped a forehand winner on the final point of the opening tie-break to take the set after 69 minutes, then broke Murray’s first service game of the second set on the way to a 5-1 edge.
Murray broke back and held and had a break chance in the ninth game, but Anderson saved it and finally took the set on his fifth chance, ripping his 12th ace of the match up the middle.
The second set was one Murray felt he let get away.
“I was starting to put pressure on him there,” Murray said.
“The service game I played at 4-1, I was up 40-Love, got broken there. That was really around the time when I was starting to get the momentum a bit back on my side.
“Maybe if I had held serve there at 40-Love, I might have been able to snatch that second set.
“When you’re playing against players that are at that level, you need to make them think and give them a chance to get nervous.”
But Anderson finally took advantage of his fifth set point, ripping his 12th ace up the middle to claim the set, then heading for a toilet break.
Courtside microphones picked up a profanity-laced Murray tirade to himself about the length of Anderson’s break as he waited to serve.
“You get these grey areas all the time,” Murray said between sips from his water bottle. “They just exploit them and you do nothing.”
Murray heated up with the crowd’s help to win the third set and fight through the fifth until unraveling in the final tie-breaker.
“The atmosphere was very good. The match was a very long one. I was trying to use the energy of the crowd as much as I could to help me,” Murray said. “Fought hard through to the end.”