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    The Tennis Escape Artists Who Lifted the Trophies

    Tennis players save match points regularly, but often crash out of a tournament soon after. But sometimes, a great save sets the stage for a big win.Holger Rune should have been out of the Paris Masters in the first round last year.Rune faced Stan Wawrinka in a contentious opening match that didn’t finish until after midnight. After saving three match points, Rune beat Wawrinka, a three-time major champion, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (3), and went on to win the whole tournament, his first Masters 1000 crown. Along the way, he upset five top-10 players, including the world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz and the six-time champion Novak Djokovic in the final. The win placed him into the world’s top 10 for the first time.Match points are saved in tennis with the regularity of a metronome. Most often, a player performs these death-defying acts early in the tournament then falters before the latter rounds. But sometimes, saving a match point can motivate a player for an entire week.In 2021, winning players saved match points in 58 main-draw matches on the WTA Tour. Only four times, though, did someone come back to win the tournament. Naomi Osaka did it at the Australian Open when she rebounded from 3-5 down in the final set to beat Garbiñe Muguruza in the fourth round and then defeated Serena Williams in the semifinals and Jennifer Brady in the final.Ashleigh Barty won the Miami Open over Bianca Andreescu but only after hitting a return winner down the line to save a match point against 149th-ranked Kristina Kucova in the second round.Naomi Osaka saved match points at the 2021 Australian Open when she rebounded from 3-5 down in the final in the fourth round. She later won the tournament.Cameron Spencer/Getty ImagesAt the 2021 Italian Open, Iga Swiatek was down two match points to Barbora Krejcikova in the third round but managed to escape with a 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5 victory. She then won the tournament by pummeling Karolina Pliskova, 6-0, 6-0, in the final.Krejcikova got some measure of revenge when she saved a match point against Maria Sakkari in the semifinals of the French Open a few weeks later, ultimately winning, 7-5, 4-6, 9-7, on her own fifth match point. Krejcikova then defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for her first and only major singles championship.This year alone, eight ATP tournaments have concluded with a champion who saved match points along the way. Six times it was in the final, including Djokovic’s victories over Sebastian Korda in Adelaide, Australia, and Alcaraz in the final in Cincinnati. Hubert Hurkacz also did it twice this year, saving match points on his way to titles in Marseille, France, in February and in Shanghai earlier this month.“It’s like being on the edge of a cliff,” Djokovic said in 2020 after he had saved three consecutive match points against Gaël Monfils in the Dubai semifinals before beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final. “You know there is no way back so you have to jump over and try to find a way to survive, I guess, and pray for the best and believe you can make it.”Last year, eight male players — including Rune in Paris — saved match points, though none in the finals, and went on to win the title. Alcaraz did it twice, against Alex de Minaur in the semifinals of Barcelona and against Jannik Sinner in a five-hour-and-15-minute quarterfinal at the U.S. Open that ended at 2:50 a.m. He went on to beat Casper Ruud in the championship match.“Sometimes when you overcome [match points], it’s good because you’re like half out of the tournament so you’re just happy that you’re there and you still have opportunities to play more matches,” said Rune in an interview.“I try to play more aggressive because you think the opponent may be more tight and nervous in these moments,” he said. “But I also don’t want to miss because I don’t want to end the match by mistake. So I try to play safe but aggressive and often I play some very good tennis on the match points.” Rune will try to defend his Paris title when the tournament starts Monday.“People often say that after saving match points or winning matches like that, it frees you up a little bit, but I don’t know if there’s any evidence to support that,” Andy Murray said.Glyn Kirk/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesAndy Murray, a former world No. 1 and three-time major champion, typically has strong memories of matches he’s played. But when asked about winning tournaments after saving match points, Murray stumbled then chuckled when reminded that he had saved a match point against Milos Raonic during the semifinals of the 2016 ATP Finals, ultimately winning the match, 5-7, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (9). The victory was particularly significant because Murray went on to beat Djokovic in the final, securing the year-end No. 1 world ranking.“People often say that after saving match points or winning matches like that, it frees you up a little bit, but I don’t know if there’s any evidence to support that,” said Murray, who also saved seven match points in a second-set tiebreaker against Philipp Kohlschreiber in the quarterfinals of Dubai in 2017 before winning the championship over Fernando Verdasco.Murray sees a difference between saving match points in a close contest and coming back from a deep deficit.“It depends a bit on the situation of the match,” Murray said. “If you’re a set and 5-1, 40-0, down it’s different to being 6-6 in the third set and it’s just one match point against you on your serve. You’re still very close to winning that match.”Saving match points in Grand Slam tournaments holds a special place of honor for players. In 2016, Angelique Kerber saved a match point in the first round of the Australian Open against Misaki Doi and went on to win her first of three majors, defeating Serena Williams in three sets in the final.“When I played here the first round I was match point down and playing with one leg on the plane to Germany,” Kerber told the crowd after winning.In 1996, Pete Sampras became physically ill during his U.S. Open quarterfinal against Alex Corretja but still managed to save a match point and win. He then beat Michael Chang for the title. Boris Becker saved two match points, one with a net-cord winner that skipped over Derrick Rostagno’s racket in the second round of the 1989 U.S. Open. He went on to win the championship over Ivan Lendl.Andy Roddick won his only Grand Slam after saving a match point in the semifinal.Nick Laham/Getty ImagesIn 2003, Andy Roddick saved a match point in a U.S. Open semifinal win over David Nalbandian then captured his lone major by beating Juan Carlos Ferrero in the final. Djokovic saved two match points in a classic five-set U.S. Open semifinal over Roger Federer in 2011 then won the title over Rafael Nadal. Djokovic also saved two match points against Federer in the Wimbledon final in 2019.But no player can top Thomas Muster and the year he had in 1995. Muster won 12 ATP tournaments that year, 11 of them on clay, and had a 65-2 record on the surface. In six of those tournaments, he saved match points, including against Becker in a Monte Carlo final in which Becker double-faulted on his first match point and then made a forehand error.In six of the 12 tournaments Thomas Muster won in 1995, he saved match points.Clive Brunskill/Allsport, via Getty Images“Tennis is one of the few games where you can’t take a result and bring it home,” said Muster by phone from his home in Austria. “You have to win the match. It’s always open and can become a different ballgame. You can be down a set and 5-0 and still win. In any other sport, no way.“You need attitude and willpower to keep believing in yourself,” Muster added. “When you’re down match points, you have nothing to lose anymore. In my mind, I’ve already lost it. But once you save that match point you say, ‘Now I’m winning it. Now that I’ve pulled it out, there’s no way somebody can take it from me. You’ve got to beat me, you’ve got to earn it.’”As for Murray, he’ll take his victories however can get them.“I don’t mind whether I’m saving a match point or winning, 6-1, 6-1,” Murray said. “It doesn’t matter to me.” More

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    At the U.S. Open, the Dwindling Ranks Leave Space and a Solitary Vibe

    It happens every year. Tennis players, by the hundreds, disappear from Flushing Meadows Corona Park.They arrive with hopes of remaining there at least two weeks, but every two days about half of them vanish until their ranks dwindle to a small, select handful. They walk the eerily quiet back halls, lounges and locker rooms of Arthur Ashe Stadium, tennis’ largest venue, nearly alone. The same phenomenon happens in London, Paris and Melbourne, Australia, each year, until eventually there are only two left to share a giant locker room, player restaurant and court.The Hall of Famer Chris Evert felt that blissful solitude 34 times in Grand Slam singles events, and won 18 of them. The goal is obviously to win their survivor game, but it is still a strange feeling.“It’s lonely and there’s pressure knowing it means you’re the last two women standing,” Evert said, adding, “There are pleasantries and small talk. You don’t want them to see you’re nervous, but you are.”When each of the four major tournaments begins, the many player areas are teeming with competitors, plus their coaches, agents, trainers, family members and hitting partners. It is difficult to get a table in the player restaurant. Preferred times for a practice court or session with the athletic trainer can be hard to come by. People are bumping into one another, stepping over equipment bags, waiting for someone to move so they can reach their locker.“At the beginning, it’s very hectic,” said Andy Murray, who has played in 11 major finals and won three, including the U.S. Open in 2012. “There’s a lot of hustle and bustle.”Even before the first day of the main draw, there are 128 women and 128 men competing in the qualifying rounds, while scores more show up to begin practicing. When the first Monday of the main draw finally hits, it’s a tennis circus. Each locker room at the U.S. Open has roughly 375 lockers, and in the early days all are in use.Space on the practice courts goes from scarce to ample.Hiroko Masuike/The New York TimesHiroko Masuike/The New York TimesGradually, some of the qualifiers lose and leave, but their spaces are handed over to newly arriving doubles players. Each contestant is allowed one additional person in the locker room, and past champions get two, and sometimes three as the event proceeds.“The first few days it’s crazy,” said Stan Wawrinka, who has reached four major finals and won three, including the 2016 U.S. Open. “The player restaurant is packed, you can’t find a table. It’s so noisy. I’m always trying to stay focused with my team and because of that, I don’t stay on site.”Then the cull begins. After two days, half the singles players have been eliminated. Two days after that, the herd is halved again, and so on. The same happens with the doubles teams and wheelchair players (Juniors have a different locker room, but they and their family members are allowed in the common players areas and restaurants).Day by day it gets quieter, until finally, after two weeks, there are just two left. Murray, like Evert, is a gregarious sort and enjoys the company of others. Roger Federer was known to be one of the livelier players in the locker room, too.Hiroko Masuike/The New York TimesHiroko Masuike/The New York TimesBut the goal is to be the last one alive in this “Squid Game,” and sometimes the isolation adds to the pressure. Before his U.S. Open final against Novak Djokovic in 2012, Murray practiced with his team, but they left him alone in the locker room to go eat while he prepared for his match.“It’s a huge locker room with no one else in there,” Murray recalled. “I remember feeling like I was incredibly nervous, and I wanted some company. At that time, I was still quite young, and I didn’t want to tell them I was nervous. I called my psychologist at the time, and she didn’t answer her phone. I felt really nervous just being in there on my own.”It turned out fine, as Murray won his first major title, but the loneliness is something with which the best players must grapple. Those who revel in solitude, like Pete Sampras, thrived on it. In Steve Flink’s book, “Pete Sampras: Greatness Revisited,” Sampras said, “I loved it on the last week of Wimbledon when nobody was in the locker room. I am a lone wolf.”Tracy Austin went 2-0 in U.S. Open finals, beating Evert in 1978 and Martina Navratilova in 1981, and said there was always cordiality in the locker room before and after matches.Mixed doubles is down to just four players. Jessica Pegula, left, and Austin Krajicek will play for the title Saturday.Hiroko Masuike/The New York TimesGetting a table in the players’ restaurant gets easier the deeper into the tournament. Hiroko Masuike/The New York TimesShe described the first week of a major tournament as draining, as much from navigating all the different people and chaotic scenes, as from playing the matches. To reach the end, and see all her colleagues disappear, was energizing.“The solitude is great,” Austin said. “It means you made it to the end and you don’t have to deal with whether you are being social or not. All your energy is focused into your match.”Every player handles it differently. Years ago, when there were fewer “teams” of coaches, agents, physios and advisers, players had more direct interaction, even when they were about to face one another. Evonne Goolagong Cawley sang in locker rooms before finals. Navratilova usually shared her food with Evert.Such collegiality is unheard-of in hockey, football, soccer and other sports, where teams do not dress in the same locker rooms. Golfers do, but that sport is not defined by one-on-one competition, as tennis is. In the same room, tennis players see when their opponent stretches, where they get taped, what muscles they ask the trainer to focus on.“You’re peripherally aware of your opponent and their moves getting ready for the match,” Evert said. “There’s definitely stress in the air and a finality of the moment. We are not one of many matches, we are the match. You are trying to not think about your opponent, but you wonder if they’re nervous, confident, relaxed.”For many players, the end of the first week, when more than 100 players in each draw have been eliminated, marks a turning point. There are still enough people around to have some social interaction, but the throngs have subsided and there is space to think and work.“The first week is the most stressful,” said Stefanos Tsitsipas, who has played in two major singles finals. “My favorite period of the Grand Slam is when the second week kicks in and everything starts to mellow down and become much quieter and more human, in a way.”Hiroko Masuike/The New York TimesHiroko Masuike/The New York TimesEric Butorac, a former tour professional, now works as a player liaison for the United States Tennis Association. He is in and out of the men’s locker room every day. He described how attendants hand out locker assignments, with preference to past champions, but they also tend to group countrymen together.Federer, Djokovic and Rafael Nadal were in so many finals over the last 20 years that eventually the locker room would become their own.“The Americans have this corner, the Spanish are here, the French are here,” Butorac said.“You get toward the end of a tournament and it’s like, Novak is around the corner to the left, Rafa is always in the back right, Roger’s is the second from the end over here.”“Going into the restaurant was extremely lonely,” Eric Butorac said of the final days of a tournament. Hiroko Masuike/The New York TimesThe player restaurant, pulsating with activity in the first week, gradually thins until only the finalists and their teams remain. Nadal and Federer used to relax in the restaurant before finals, playing games with members of their teams, and people knew to give them space. Butorac has been there, too. He reached the men’s doubles final at the 2014 Australian Open, and also warmed up Federer before his semifinal with Nadal.“Going into the restaurant was extremely lonely,” he said. “It was me, my one coach, my partner and his one coach. Federer was way down there and there were 30 empty tables between us. It was actually an eerily lonely feeling to be the last one standing. On TV it’s a big spectacle, but it has an odd feeling to it.”At the U.S. Open, the player garden turns into a desolate patio. The five practice courts, which were overcrowded at the beginning of play, are mostly empty. During the men’s final — the last event of the tournament — the hallways are nearly empty, other than security personnel. The other courts on the grounds are vacant. Even with Ashe packed, it is still the smallest overall attendance of the event, as only a handful of fans watch the big screen from the courtyard.“I love it,” said Daniil Medvedev, who won the U.S. Open in 2021 and has played in three other major finals. “That final Sunday is the best. It’s only you, his team and your team. I don’t feel lonely. If you want to win, you have to be alone at the end.” More

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    A Field Guide to the 2023 U.S. Open

    With the grass and clay seasons over, the eyes of the tennis world now turn to Flushing Meadows.The U.S. Open, played from Aug. 28 to Sept. 10 in Queens, is the last Grand Slam tournament of the calendar year, giving players one more chance to win a major title. Each year, the tournament creates a buzz around New York City, and it never fails to excite — or wreak havoc on sleep schedules, with marathon matches that can go deep into the night.At last year’s U.S. Open, Serena Williams largely stole the show during the first week as she closed out her storied career by reaching the third round of the singles draw. This year, without Williams, Roger Federer and an injured Rafael Nadal, a largely younger generation of tennis stars is looking to make a deep run in the tournament.Both of the 2022 singles winners are back in the field: Iga Swiatek, the 22-year-old from Poland and a four-time Grand Slam tournament champion, and Carlos Alcaraz, the 20-year-old Spanish phenom with two Grand Slam singles titles under his belt. But while Alcaraz and Swiatek are among those favored to win, you never know when a couple of teenagers could surprise everyone and reach the final.Here’s what to know about this year’s U.S. Open.How can I watch?In the United States, ESPN will carry the action from the first ball of the day until late into the night. Over Labor Day weekend, ABC will also broadcast some matches.Around the world, other networks airing the tournament include TSN in Canada, Sky Sports in Britain, Migu in China, Sky Deutschland in Germany, SuperTennis in Italy and Movistar in Spain.Kids lined up for autographs from Frances Tiafoe in Arthur Ashe Stadium after he practiced on Friday.Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times‘Stand clear of the closing doors, please.’For those heading out to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, the No. 7 train, which makes stops in Manhattan at Times Square and Grand Central Station, is one of the easiest ways to get to the U.S. Open.The No. 7 train stops at Mets-Willets Point station, which leads directly to the tennis grounds. (If you see a bunch of fans in Mets gear, turn around because you’ve gone the wrong way.) It also includes an express route, which makes fewer stops than the local trains, and on certain nights an even faster “super express train” is offered back to Manhattan. Another option is to take the Long Island Rail Road to the Mets-Willets Point station.Parking is also available at the tournament, along with designated ride-share spots. But beware: Heavy traffic often means that driving either in or out of Manhattan can take longer than a train ride.Baseball fans and tennis fans will mingle at the Mets-Willets Point subway station.Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York TimesCan’t get a ticket to Arthur Ashe Stadium?There is something electric about a night match under the lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium. The court is reserved for the tournament’s top-billed players, who are spurred on by raucous, Honey Deuce-fueled crowds. But a seat in Arthur Ashe can be pricey.Other options include buying a ticket to Louis Armstrong Stadium or the Grandstand, which both host a number of often-underrated matches and offer a closer look at the action. There isn’t a bad seat in either venue.Perhaps one of the best — and more laissez-faire — ways to enjoy the tournament is to buy a grounds pass and hop around from court to court. A grounds pass also offers first-come, first-serve access to the general admission seating in Armstrong and the Grandstand.Don’t sleep on those numbered outer courts, either. At last year’s tournament, Aryna Sabalenka, who won this year’s Australian Open, was down — 2-6, 1-5 — in a second-round match against Kaia Kanepi. The match seemed all but over until Sabalenka fought back to win the second set and eventually the third. Where did this epic comeback go down? Court 5, over by the practice courts.Spectators watched qualifying matches inside the Grandstand on Friday.Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York TimesWho’s playing?Novak Djokovic is back. After missing last year’s U.S. Open because he was not vaccinated against the coronavirus, as American travel restrictions required of foreign visitors at the time, the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion returns to seek a 24th title.Djokovic will enter the tournament in strong form after winning the Western & Southern Open in Ohio last week against Alcaraz. In the final, Djokovic was down a set, and he appeared to be suffering badly from the heat, but he rallied and forced a third set, winning on a tiebreaker.In addition to Alcaraz and Swiatek, other big names in this year’s tournament include Sabalenka of Belarus, Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, Daniil Medvedev of Russia, Casper Ruud of Norway and Elena Rybakina, who represents Kazakhstan. Some of the top-seeded American players include Frances Tiafoe, Jessica Pegula, Coco Gauff and Taylor Fritz.Frances Tiafoe made a deep run in last year’s U.S. Open.Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York TimesKeep an eye on these story lines.Elina Svitolina, a U.S. Open semifinalist in 2019, missed last year’s tournament while taking time off for the birth of her daughter and raising money for Ukraine, her home country, after it was invaded by Russia. Since returning to tennis this year, Svitolina made an impressive run to the quarterfinals of the French Open, and she defeated Swiatek to reach the semifinals of Wimbledon. (By the way, don’t be surprised if you see Svitolina or any Ukrainian player refuse to shake hands with Russian or Belarusian players.)Gauff, the 19-year-old who was a French Open finalist in 2022, enters the U.S. Open having won two titles this month, in Washington, D.C., and Ohio. In the semis of the Western & Southern Open, she was finally able to beat Swiatek, having lost the previous seven matches against her.Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams were both awarded wild-card slots at this year’s U.S. Open. Wozniacki, a one-time Grand Slam singles champion from Denmark, is back after retiring from tennis in 2020 to start a family. Williams, a seven-time Grand Slam singles champion, shows no signs of stopping at 43.On the men’s side, Andy Murray, 36, is another veteran who is keeping on with three Grand Slam titles in tow, and John Isner, the 38-year-old American, was awarded a wild card for what he said will be his final tournament.Someone else to keep tabs on is Jennifer Brady, the 28-year-old American who reached the 2021 Australian Open final. After missing nearly two years with injuries, Brady is back on the tennis scene.Jennifer Brady made her return to tennis this year.Jacob Langston for The New York TimesSome big names are missing this year.One of the most notable absences will be Rafael Nadal, the 22-time Grand Slam singles champion. He is out for the rest of the year with an injury and is eyeing a return next year.This year’s tournament will also lack some recent U.S. Open champions: Naomi Osaka, who won the U.S. Open in 2018 and 2020, will miss this year’s tournament after giving birth to a daughter this summer. Emma Raducanu, who won the 2021 U.S. Open women’s title as a qualifier without losing a single set, is recovering from minor procedures on both hands and an ankle. Bianca Andreescu, the 2019 U.S. Open champion, is out this year with a small stress fracture in her back.Simona Halep, a two-time Grand Slam singles champion, was withdrawn from the tournament because she received a provisional suspension in October after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug during last year’s U.S. Open.Nick Kyrgios, the fiery Australian, withdrew from the men’s draw in early August. Kyrgios, who has played in only one tournament this year, wrote on Instagram that a wrist injury was keeping him out of the U.S. Open.Naomi Osaka at last year’s U.S. Open.Michelle V. Agins/The New York TimesMark your calendars.The action begins on Monday, with the first, second and third rounds scheduled through Sept. 2. The round of 16 starts on Sept. 3, followed by the quarterfinals on Sept. 5 and 6.The women’s semifinals are scheduled for Sept. 7, with the men’s semifinals on Sept. 8. The women’s final will be played Sept. 9, and the tournament wraps up with the men’s final on Sept. 10.Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times More

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    Ons Jabeur Calls Wimbledon Loss ‘the Most Painful’ of Her Career

    “Honestly, I felt a lot of pressure, feeling a lot of stress,” Jabeur said after losing the women’s singles final to Marketa Vondrousova.With the hopes of a country, a continent and a world of tennis lovers who felt she was long overdue urging her toward history, Ons Jabeur fell agonizingly short. For the second time at Wimbledon, and the third time in a year at a Grand Slam, Jabeur had hoped to become the first woman from Tunisia, the first from Africa and the first Arabic speaker to win a major women’s singles tournament.The pressure of playing for so much and so many may have caught up to her, again.“Honestly, I felt a lot of pressure, feeling a lot of stress,” Jabeur said Saturday after losing the women’s singles final, 6-4, 6-4 to Marketa Vondrousova. “But like every final, like every match I played, I was telling myself, ‘It’s OK, it’s normal.’ I honestly did nothing wrong.”For years on tour, Jabeur has done everything right, except win a title that she and her fans so desperately desire. Tears flowed again on Centre Court, as Jabeur joined the likes of Andy Murray and Jana Novotna, two former Wimbledon finalists who each cried after losing finals they had hoped would be their breakthrough championships.Jabeur, who lost last year’s Wimbledon final — and the final of the last U.S. Open — struggled against Vondrousova, who won to become the first unseeded Wimbledon women’s champion.Shortly after, during the on-court ceremony, Jabeur broke down, wiping tears from her pink eyes as she spoke to spectators, and holding the runner-up trophy like a dirty dish. She called it “the most painful loss” of her career. Then, when she receded into the elegant hallways of Wimbledon’s main stadium, Catherine, Princess of Wales, offered a consoling hug.“I told her hugs are always welcome from me,” said Jabeur, who required the same sympathetic shoulder last year after losing to Elena Rybakina in the final.Another famous royal hug was given in 1993 by the Duchess of Kent to Novotna, after Novotna had lost to Steffi Graf in the final and began to weep during the trophy ceremony. Five years later, Novotna won it all.In 2012, Murray was in pieces after losing to Roger Federer in the final, barely able to speak to the fans — and to a nation — during his on-court speech. Carrying the hopes of British sports fans yearning for their first men’s champion in 77 years at their home grand slam, Murray’s voice cracked and he dabbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. A few weeks later he won the U.S. Open and the following year he won Wimbledon, by beating Novak Djokovic, this year’s men’s finalist who plays on Sunday against Carlos Alcaraz.There is precedent, and perhaps some luck, for popular players who demonstrate their vulnerability and shed a tear after a gutting loss. Jabeur also received a hug from Kim Clijsters, who lost four finals in major tournaments before finally winning the U.S. Open in 2005. She eventually finished her career with four Grand Slam singles titles, one for every loss.“It brings back a lot of memories and thoughts about how you go about it,” Clijsters said in an interview Saturday after the match. “I was trying to remember the process I went through. There is no real secret, it’s just trying to give yourself the opportunity to get to that stage again.”At the 2001 French Open, Clijsters sought to become the first Belgian woman to win a major tournament. She lost to Jennifer Capriati, 12-10, in an epic third set, one day after her 18th birthday. Clijsters said she was too young to handle all the attention, scrutiny and on-court challenges if she had won that day.Jabeur showed flashes of resilience early in the second set against Vondrousova, but could not make the most of it.Andrew Couldridge/ReutersJabeur, who turns 29 in August, feels more than ready to win. But the pressure only increases with each failed attempt. Clijsters noticed that Jabeur had poor body language Saturday, slumping after mistakes and showing zero positive emotions following a good shot.“That shows that the doubt was overpowering everything during the match,” Clijsters said. “The biggest thing she has to learn is to fake it. Fake it until you make it.”Faking it could be hard for Jabeur, who appears as genuine as she is talented; one of the many reasons fans are so drawn to her. As the No. 6 seed, she played magnificently here, avenging last year’s devastating loss to No. 3 Rybakina in a quarterfinal and No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka in their semifinal. Many thought it was Jabeur’s time, making the loss more excruciating and eliciting sympathy even from Vondrousova’s camp.“When I saw her, I started to cry, too,” said Stepan Simek, Vondrousova’s husband. “Ons is a very lovely human. She has a good heart and is very friendly with opponents, and even to me. I was very sad because she deserves to be a Grand Slam champion. She will make it one day.” More

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    At Wimbledon, Is It Time for Hawk-Eye Live to Replace the Line Judges?

    Line judges made incorrect calls in the first week that changed the trajectory of matches for Andy Murray, Bianca Andreescu and Venus Williams, among others. Is it time to give computers the job?Andy Murray was a victim.Bianca Andreescu was too.Jiri Lehecka had to play a fifth set and essentially win his third-round match twice.Hawk-Eye Live, an electronic line calling system, could have saved the players their set, even their match, but Wimbledon doesn’t use it to its full extent, preferring a more traditional approach. The rest of the year on the professional tours, many tournaments rely exclusively on the technology, allowing players to know with near certainty whether their ball lands in or out because the computer always makes the call.But when players come to the All England Club for what is widely regarded as the most important tournament of the year, their fates are largely determined by line judges relying on their eyesight. Even more frustrating, because Wimbledon and its television partners have access to the technology, which players can use to challenge a limited number of calls each match, everyone watching the broadcast sees in real time if a ball is in or out. The people for whom the information is most important — the players and the chair umpire, who oversees the match — must rely on the line judge.When the human eye is judging serves traveling around 120 m.p.h. and forehand rallies faster than 80 m.p.h., errors are bound to happen.“When mistakes are getting made in important moments, then obviously as a player you don’t want that,” said Murray, who could have won his second-round match against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the fourth set, if computers had been making the line calls. Murray’s backhand return was called out, even though replays showed the ball was in. He ended up losing in five sets.No tennis tournament clings to its traditions the way Wimbledon does. Grass court tennis. Matches on Centre Court beginning later than everywhere else, and after those in the Royal Box have had their lunch. No lights for outdoor tennis. A queue with an hourslong wait for last-minute tickets.Those traditions do not have an effect on the outcome of matches from one point to the next. But keeping line judges on the court, after technology has proved to be more reliable, has been affecting — perhaps even turning — key matches seemingly every other day.To understand why that is happening, it’s important to understand how tennis has ended up with different rules for judging across its tournaments.Before the early 2000s, tennis — like baseball, basketball, hockey and other sports — relied on human officials to make calls, many of which were wrong, according to John McEnroe (and pretty much every other tennis player). McEnroe’s most infamous meltdown happened at Wimbledon in 1981, prompted by an incorrect line call.“I would have loved to have had Hawk-Eye,” said Mats Wilander, the seven-time Grand Slam singles champion and a star in the 1980s.But then tennis began experimenting with the Hawk-Eye Live judging system. Cameras capture the bounce of every ball from multiple angles and computers analyze the images to depict the ball’s trajectory and impact points with only a microscopic margin for error. Line judges remained as a backup, but players received three opportunities each set to challenge a line call, and an extra challenge when a set went to a tiebreaker.That forced players to try to figure out when to risk using a challenge they might need on a more crucial point later in the set.“It’s too much,” Wilander said. “I can’t imagine making that calculation, standing there, thinking about whether a shot felt good, how many challenges I have left, how late is it in the set.”Even Roger Federer, who was good at nearly every aspect of tennis, was famously terrible at making successful challenges.Hawk-Eye Live cameras along the outer courts at the U.S. Open in 2020.Jason Szenes/EPA, via ShutterstockBefore long, tennis officials began considering a fully electronic line calling system. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, tournaments were looking for ways to limit the number of people on the tennis court.Craig Tiley, the chief executive of Tennis Australia, said adopting electronic calling in 2021 was also a part of the Australian Open’s “culture of innovation.” Players liked it. So did fans, Tiley said, because matches moved more quickly.Last year, the U.S. Open switched to fully electronic line calling. There is an ongoing debate about whether the raised lines on clay courts would prevent the technology from providing the same precision as on grass and hardcourts. At the French Open and other clay court tournaments, the ball leaves a mark that umpires often inspect.In 2022, the men’s ATP Tour featured 21 tournaments with fully electronic line calling, including stops in Indian Wells, Calif.; Miami Gardens, Fla.; Canada; and Washington, D.C. All of those sites have women’s WTA tournaments as well. Every ATP tournament will use it beginning in 2025.“The question is not whether it’s 100 percent right but whether it is better than a human, and it is definitely better than a human,” said Mark Ein, who owns the Citi Open in Washington, D.C.A spokesman for the All England Club said Sunday that Wimbledon has no plans to remove its line judges.“After the tournament we look at everything we do, but at this moment, we have no plans to change the system,” Dominic Foster said.Line judges at Wimbledon are responsible for ruling the ball in or out.Julian Finney/Getty ImagesOn Saturday, Andreescu became a casualty of human error. The 2019 U.S. Open champion from Canada, Andreescu has been going deeper into Grand Slam tournaments after years of injuries.With the finish of her match against Ons Jabeur of Tunisia in sight, Andreescu resisted asking for electronic intervention on a crucial shot the line judge had called out. From across the net Jabeur, who had been close to the ball as it landed, advised Andreescu not to waste one of her three challenges for the set, saying the ball was indeed out. The match continued, though not before television viewers saw the computerized replay that showed the ball landing on the line.“I trust Ons,” Andreescu said after Jabeur came back to beat her in three sets, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.Andreescu explained that she was thinking of her previous match, a three-set marathon decided by a final-set tiebreaker, during which she said she “wasted” several challenges.Against Jabeur, she thought, “I’m going to save it, just in case.”Bad idea. Jabeur won that game, and the set, and then the match.Over on Court No. 12, the challenge system was causing another kind of confusion. Lehecka had match point against Tommy Paul when he raised his hand to challenge a call after returning a shot from Paul that had landed on the line. His request for a challenge came just as Paul hit the next shot into the net.The point was replayed. Paul won it, and then the set moments later, forcing a deciding set. Lehecka won, but had to run around for another half-hour. Venus Williams lost match point in her first-round match on another complicated sequence involving a challenge.Leylah Fernandez, a two-time Grand Slam finalist from Canada, said she likes the tradition of line judges at Wimbledon as the world cedes more to technology.Then again, she added, if “it did cost me a match, it would have been probably a different answer.”Andy Murray learned after his loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas that his shot, called out by a line judge, was in and could have changed the outcome of the match.Sebastien Bozon/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesThat is where Murray, the two-time Wimbledon champion, found himself after his loss Friday afternoon. By the time he arrived at his news conference, he had learned that his slow and sharply angled backhand return of serve that landed just a few yards from the umpire had nicked the line.The point would have given him two chances to break Tsitsipas’s serve and serve out the match. When he was told the shot was in, his eyes opened with a startle, then fell toward the floor.Murray now knew what everyone else had seen.The ball had landed under the nose of the umpire, who confirmed the call, Murray said. He could not imagine how anyone could have missed it. He actually likes having the line judges, he added. Perhaps it was his fault for not using a challenge.“Ultimately,” he said, “the umpire made a poor call that’s right in front of her.” More

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    Andy Murray’s Run at Wimbledon Is Short and Bittersweet

    In a punishing second-round match played over two days, Stefanos Tsitsipas outlasted Wimbledon’s favorite son over five sets.Streams of glum British tennis fans filed quietly out of Centre Court on Friday, moments after their Scottish hero had himself departed with a quick two-handed wave before disappearing from their sight.Andy Murray, a two-time Wimbledon champion who has extended his career to age 36 after two hip surgeries, was battling to extend his run at the All England Club into the third round, and was carrying most of the 15,000 fans in the stadium along for the ride.As the match against Stefanos Tsitsipas played out over two days, Murray’s supporters shrieked at his better moments, sat hushed for the lesser ones and cheered supportively ahead of critical points, hoping to provide him with the emotional lift needed to propel his weary body onward, knowing there is always a chance they may never see him compete at Wimbledon again.But the task over five punishing sets was too formidable, and the result cast a gloom over an otherwise glorious day of sunshine and tennis at Wimbledon.Murray, still striving to regain the consistently elite form he once possessed, fell to No. 5 Tsitsipas, 7-6 (3), 6-7 (2), 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4, in a match so close that Murray outscored his Greek opponent in overall points, 176-169.“I’m obviously very disappointed right now,” he said in a news conference about 25 minutes after the match had ended. “You never know how many opportunities you’re going to get to play here.”Murray’s dreary mood was reflected all around the grounds on a difficult day for British players and their fans on Friday. The 12th-seeded Cameron Norrie, Britain’s current No. 1 player, lost to the unseeded American Chris Eubanks, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (3), on Court No. 1, and Liam Broady, the British No. 2, fell to the Canadian Dennis Shapovalov, who won 4-6, 6-2, 7-5, 7-5.But with Murray, it is different. For two decades, British tennis supporters have watched while he converted the promise of his junior career into glory when, under great pressure in 2013, he became the first British man in 77 years to win Wimbledon, Britain’s home tournament and the premier event on the tour. Three years later, he did it again, to add to the U.S. Open title and the Olympic gold medal he had won in 2012, the latter also on Centre Court.Stefanos Tsitsipas hugged Murray after their match.Shaun Botterill/Getty ImagesHe has been No. 1 in the world, and good enough for long enough to have earned membership among the “Big Four” of men’s tennis that also included the now-retired Roger Federer, the currently injured Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, the current No. 1, who beat Stan Wawrinka on Friday on Centre Court, 6-3, 6-1, 7-6 (5).Murray’s presence on the lush green lawns of Wimbledon could barely have been expected four years ago. He underwent hip surgery in 2018 that did not take, and it appeared his career was done. But a year later he underwent hip-resurfacing surgery that allowed him to play on. It has not been easy. He has toiled on tennis’s minor league Challenger circuit and worked his world ranking to No. 40 going into Wimbledon. But recent losses in the first rounds of most of the top-flight tournaments he entered have raised doubts.Still, his public held out hope, and did its part, beginning Thursday night, when Murray and Tsitsipas began the match. When Murray won the second set in a tiebreaker, fans erupted, and optimism was rebooted. An energized Murray then had a set point in the third set, but fell to the grass in pain, yelling and clutching at the top of his right leg. It appeared serious, but he struggled to his feet, danced it out at the baseline and then served a winner to take the set as the crowd erupted.“It’s like sort of a jarring of the joint,” he said. “Can be a little bit sore.”It was 10:40 p.m., under the lights. As Murray and Tsitsipas went to their chairs for the changeover, they were informed that the match would be suspended because of the 11 p.m. curfew. Murray was riding a locomotive of momentum, but he could not argue — even though, before the tournament began, he had requested not to be scheduled for late matches.In a post-loss moment of magnanimity that many other professionals could not have mustered, Murray did not fault the decision, noting the grander implications.“The players shouldn’t necessarily just be able to make requests and get what they want,” he said. “There’s many, many factors that go into it.”On Friday, some conditions were completely different. The roof was open; the sun shone in. But the crowd was still as vociferous, both in the stadium and on Henman Hill, where many hundreds of fans baked in the sun to watch on the large video screen.Murray arrived at Wimbledon hoping it would be his breakthrough event, and he would make a bold run into the second week. With so few opportunities left to play in this hallowed venue, Murray was asked if the loss hurt even more, after all the struggles he has been through to get here. He paused and thought.“Yeah, the defeats maybe feel a bit tougher,” he said. “But, to be honest, every year that Wimbledon has not gone how I would like, it’s been hard.”He has given no indication that he intends to retire in the coming months. But decisions are sometimes made in the wake of a particularly dispiriting loss, and Murray, in his low, brooding tone, said he could not be certain.“Motivation is obviously a big thing,” he explained. “Continuing having early losses in tournaments like this don’t necessarily help with that.” More

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    Carlos Alcaraz Has Been Studying the Grass Court Masters. That Means Andy Murray.

    On a day many matches were rained out at the All England Club, Alcaraz displayed his continued improvement on grass, and what he has learned from Murray.Carlos Alcaraz took a little time to rest after coming up short in the French Open last month, and then he embarked on the next step toward strengthening one of the few remaining weaknesses in his tennis development — playing on grass.For Alcaraz, the 20-year-old world No. 1, that meant getting enough training sessions and matches on the surface that is at once the most traditional and most quirky in the sport. It also meant hours of watching videos of Andy Murray, the two-time Wimbledon champion and one of the masters of grass court tennis.On a day of rain that caused the cancellation or suspension of nearly every match not contested on the two covered courts at the All England Club, Alcaraz showed that his homework was paying off, and Murray provided the young Spaniard with a fresh batch of study material.Alcaraz has never advanced past the round of 16 at Wimbledon, but he has left no doubt about his goals for his third go-round at this most venerated of tennis competitions.“To win the tournament,” he said after the 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 pounding he delivered to Jeremy Chardy of France. “I have a lot of confidence right now.”An afternoon of play against Chardy, who had announced that he planned to retire after this tournament, was sure to help with that. There was little chance that Chardy was going to provide much of a challenge for Alcaraz at 36 years old, ranked 542nd in the world, and with just one tour level win this year.But for Alcaraz, who grew up mostly playing on red clay, the value of the day came not from the difficulty of his opponent. It came from spending more time on the sport’s most beguiling surface. With each match at Wimbledon Alcaraz gets closer to the inevitable — when the most talented young player becomes every bit as good on grass as he is everywhere else.Alcaraz, left, and Andy Murray at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna in 2021.Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty ImagesThis is where watching videos of Murray comes in. Alcaraz knows how to hit a tennis ball as well as and as hard as anyone, and his drop shot is as good as it gets on clay and hard courts. He’s also just about the fastest player in the game, especially on clay and hard courts. But he has said he needs to learn how to adapt his speed and his repertoire of shots to the grass.Few players have shown how to do that better than Murray, who won the men’s singles title at Wimbledon in 2013 and 2016, and showed why Tuesday afternoon in his 6-3, 6-0, 6-1 dismantling of Ryan Peniston, a fellow Briton.There are others who have conquered grass, of course, namely Roger Federer, who won a record eight men’s singles titles at Wimbledon and spent the afternoon chatting quietly in the front row of the royal box with Catherine, Princess of Wales, after he was celebrated with a video and a standing ovation. Alcaraz has studied his matches, too.And then there is Novak Djokovic, who has won the last four singles titles here, seven overall, and is on a 29-match Wimbledon winning streak. The problem with studying Djokovic is that he moves differently than everyone else on grass.Djokovic has somehow figured out how to glide and slide as though he were on clay or a hard court. When others try to play that way, they often end up on their backsides or with a strained groin. It is a style of grass court tennis that should come with a “don’t try this” warning.Alcaraz didn’t. Not on his way to the title at the grass court tuneup at Queen’s Club two weeks ago, or against Chardy on Tuesday, when he displayed plenty of signs of his Murray/Federer imitation game.Alcaraz took on balls ever so slightly earlier, a necessary move since they barely bounce on grass. He decelerated and turned with a series of quick stutter steps instead of his usual lightning quick plant-and-pivot. He showed off his improving serve, firing 10 aces, with plenty of them sliding off the court, including a final one on match point into the deep-wide corner of the service box that slid off the court before Chardy could move for it.“Every time that I get out to the court playing, it’s better for me,” he said when it was over. “I get more experience that is really, really important on that surface.”Murray does not lack for experience on grass and has almost always looked comfortable at the All England Club, making the third round in his debut in the main draw in 2005, when he was just 18 years old. Tuesday’s win over Peniston provided plenty of grass court study tips.Alcaraz often talks about how he begins every match wanting to play aggressively. Murray showed that on grass, aggression can take many forms beyond Alcaraz’s crushing forehands.Andy Murray in action in his first-round match on Tuesday.Hannah Mckay/ReutersHe played blocked backhand returns of serve that died in the front of the court to set up passing shots and sent drop volleys nearly sideways. In some rallies he produced a series of strokes that passed ever closer to the top of the net, and slid ever lower as they landed on the grass. One passing shot while Peniston was at the net darted toward his feet as though it fell off a table as soon as it passed over the tape. It was all over in two hours and 1 minute, one of Murray’s easier days on Centre Court, though he confessed to feeling nervous early on.“I like to feel that way,” he said “If I was going on the court and felt flat, didn’t have any emotion when I’m walking out there, that’s something that would probably be a bit wrong.”When Peniston committed his final error, Murray celebrated with the slightest of fist pumps and a brief wave to the crowd.He noted that the last time Federer had watched him on Centre Court was in the final of the 2012 Olympics, when Federer was cheering on his countryman and Murray’s opponent that day, Stan Wawrinka.“I was glad to get a few claps today,” Murray said.Murray skipped the French Open to begin his preparations for Wimbledon, the tournament he believes offers him the best chance to play into the second week.Those chances likely improved Tuesday when the match between his potential opponents, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Dominic Thiem, was suspended shortly after Thiem won the first set. They will likely resume Wednesday, with the winner taking on Murray, almost undoubtedly on Centre Court, Thursday.Murray said he does not study draws, preferring instead to focus only on his next match rather than waste time on hypotheticals. If he did, he would find a potential opponent in the semifinals who would be familiar with his tricks.That would be Alcaraz. More

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    Andy Murray Returns to Wimbledon Aiming for Another Long Run

    A decade ago, Murray broke the 77-year singles championship drought for British men at Wimbledon. It has been up and down since. Can he recapture the magic?In late May, with most of the world’s best tennis players focused on the red clay at the French Open, Sir Andy Murray was 300 miles away on the other side of the English Channel, dialed in on preparations for the grass at Wimbledon.That had been the plan, anyway. But then his wife, Kim Sears, had to head up to Scotland for a few days to handle some business at the hotel she and Murray own. That left him solo for the morning rituals beginning at 5:30 a.m. with their four children, all younger than 8: cooking breakfast, getting everyone dressed and dropping them off at school.Three hours later, with the last child delivered, he headed to Britain’s national tennis center in Roehampton, where he received treatment from his physiotherapist and trained for several hours on the grass court and in the gym. There was also an afternoon of interviews and shooting promotional videos. It’s all part of the next phase of Murray’s quixotic, late-career quest to finish his journey on his terms, metal hip and all.Maybe that means somehow recapturing the magic of 10 years ago, when he became the first British man in 77 years to win the most important title in his sport. Maybe it’s simply cracking the top 30 or 20 once more, proving wrong all the doctors and doubters who called him foolish for entertaining a future in professional tennis after hip resurfacing surgery in 2019.Or maybe it’s pushing off for however long he can be the full-time tennis elder, entrepreneur and someone who, years ago, did that glorious thing.The default demeanor that accompanies Murray’s grueling physical play has always looked something like misery, peppered with a near-constant verbal self-flagellation that pulls spectators into his battle. But there is also joy in the training, the competing, the quest to improve and get the most out of himself while doing something that he loves, even when that means struggling against seemingly inferior opponents. Murray knows nothing else he does will ever match the feeling. So he goes on, results be damned.“I’m jealous of your Jannik Sinners and these young guys that have got an amazing career to look forward to,” he said during a recent interview at the end of that harried day as he headed for the tennis center parking lot. “I would love to do it all over again.”Murray’s Wimbledon singles title in 2013 was the first by a British man since Fred Perry won in 1936.Kerim Okten/European Pressphoto Agency‘An Outrageous Career’A decade on from the moment Britain had been waiting on since the Great Depression, Murray returns to the All England Club a version of himself that he could not have imagined in 2013, when he was just another 20-something bloke who walked his dogs in London on the south bank of the Thames.The tennis obsessive is now a man in full: a husband of eight years; a father of four; an officer of the Order of the British Empire (hence the “sir”); an art collector; an entrepreneur with a portfolio that includes a hotel, a clothing line and other investments; and the wise man, sounding board and occasional practice partner for the next generation of British tennis stars, such as Jack Draper and Emma Raducanu.Mirra Andreeva, the 16-year-old Russian phenom, would like some time with him, too. She called him “so beautiful” this spring.Regrets, he has a few, especially in those years in his 20s when he trained like a fiend and viewed time with friends and family as an impediment to a tireless search for every ounce of success. Another speed workout. More lifting, or hot yoga, or hitting practice balls. Why did he make life so difficult for his coaches? Why did he eat all those sweet-and-sour candies? Why did he stay up until 3 a.m. playing video games so often?The lazy view of Murray, who plays Ryan Peniston of Britain in the first round on Tuesday, is a player with just three Grand Slam singles titles, the same as Stan Wawrinka, who is a fine champion but no one’s idea of an all-time great. Novak Djokovic just won his 23rd. Rafael Nadal has 22; Roger Federer, 20. They are the so-called Big Three.Djokovic said recently he doesn’t much like that term because it excludes Murray, a player he has been battling since his days on the junior tennis circuit. The longtime mates practiced together on Saturday at the All England Club.There is a reason Federer included Murray as a central character in his send-off last year at the Laver Cup. Murray has beaten Djokovic, Nadal and Federer a combined 29 times, including two wins over Djokovic in Grand Slam finals. He made 11 Grand Slam singles finals during the most competitive era of elite men’s tennis. Only he, Nadal, Federer and Djokovic held a No. 1 ranking between 2004 and 2022. And he withstood unmatched pressure during his run to that first Wimbledon title.“It’s an outrageous career,” said Jamie Murray, a top doubles player who teamed with Andy, his younger sibling, in 2015 to deliver Britain its first Davis Cup triumph since 1936.Or it was an outrageous career, until that grueling physical style exacted its toll on Murray’s back and ankles and eventually led to the degenerative hip condition that stymied his run at the top in 2017. In January 2018, Murray had an initial unsuccessful hip surgery. For the rest of the season, everyone saw him suffering and limping through the pain.At the 2019 Australian Open, Bob Bryan, a 23-time Grand Slam doubles champion, put his breakfast tray down at Murray’s table and told him about the hip resurfacing surgery he had undergone the previous summer. The operation allowed Bryan to return to high-level competition doubles in just five months. Elite singles was something else entirely.“‘All I want to do is play,’” Bryan said Murray told him.Later that month, Murray posted a startling photo on Instagram that showed him lying in a hospital bed.“I now have a metal hip,” he wrote after the roughly two-hour resurfacing procedure that replaced the damaged bone and cartilage with a metal shell. “Feeling a bit battered and bruised just now but hopefully that will be the end of my hip pain.”Murray’s pain had grown so severe that the primary goal of the operation was to give him the ability to play with his children.For the next six months, he attacked physical therapy and rehabilitation the way he had attacked tennis. He was a full-time father. He played golf. He hung around with old friends.Matt Gentry, Murray’s longtime agent and business partner, said the downtime gave Murray a window into life without tennis. It wasn’t terrible.Murray has long admired American sports stars who take an entrepreneurial approach to their careers, and he and Gentry began to map out opportunities. Murray has since launched a clothing line. He has invested with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in TMRW Sports, a company that is seeking to find new ways to marry sports media and technology, including a new golf competition. He is part of a group that is building thousands of padel courts at sports clubs throughout the United Kingdom.In 2013, he purchased Cromlix House, a 15-room castle-like hotel near his childhood home in Dunblane, Scotland, for roughly $2 million. The property was especially meaningful: His grandparents held their 25th anniversary party there in 1982. He and Sears held their wedding reception there. His brother, Jamie, also got married at the property.Murray and Sears recently completed the first phase of a multimillion-dollar renovation and expansion of the property that will eventually include cabins by the nearby loch. The hotel is home to several pieces of art from Murray’s private collection, including a series of Damien Hirst and David Shrigley prints.For now, Murray said, he mostly listens to pitches and writes checks, but he plans to become more involved in his business ventures when he is done playing tennis. If he has his way, that day will not arrive for some time.‘Why Shouldn’t He Keep Playing?’Murray’s mother, Judy, a former player who was his first tennis coach, said tennis allows her son to express so many parts of his identity, beginning with a burning need to compete, but also an analytical mind that loves studying the game and its history.From the time he was a small boy, she said, if a game of cards or dominoes wasn’t going his way, those cards and dominoes would go flying across the room. He also had an older and bigger brother he desperately wanted to beat, and plenty of people who said that a boy from a small town in Scotland, where the weather was terrible and indoor courts were scarce, could never win Wimbledon. Now those same people say his time has passed.“If he still loves it, then why shouldn’t he keep playing?” Judy Murray said in an interview on Friday.Andy Murray with his mother, Judy, at the All England Club in 2019, when he played doubles while recovering from hip surgery.Hannah Mckay/ReutersMurray said he has a rough idea of when and how he would like his tennis career to end, but he knows it might not be his choice. Federer desperately wanted to play more, but his knee wouldn’t allow it. Murray has seen the videos of Nadal limping off the court in Australia in January with a torn muscle and hip injury from which he may never fully recover.Murray knows that his next desperate sprint for a drop shot, or one of his signature points earned while running the baseline back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, could be his last. Then again, he could still be doing this three years from now, which carries its own unique complications.He recently ran out of his stash of the bulky, extra-support tennis shoes that Under Armour manufactured for him until their last partnership deal expired. So Murray had to call his friend Kevin Plank, the Under Armour founder, and ask if he could make him more shoes. Plank did.In early June, when Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz and nearly everyone else of consequence was playing in Paris, Murray was playing a Challenger tournament at a racket club in Surbiton, southwest of London, in the tennis minor leagues.The field was made up of pro-tour deep cuts and some early round French Open casualties. A crowd of hundreds packed the stands, which were set on shaky scaffolding.Murray took only a few games against Chung Hyeon, a journeyman from South Korea, to show why he is certain he can beat anyone in the world on grass at a time when so few pros have mastered the surface: the slice backhands that go successively lower until they barely bounce above an opponent’s shoelaces; the dying volleys in the front of the court, and the stinging ones to the baseline; the slice serve that slides so far off the court; the softballs that look like meatballs but are really knuckleballs, wobbling in the air and twisting when they hit the grass.Two weeks and two Challenger trophies later, Murray had claimed 10 straight matches, the first five won while commuting from his home outside London, where he had decamped to a spare bedroom for the month to get some rest.Then came his final Wimbledon tuneup, at Queen’s Club in London, where he lost his first match to Alex de Minaur of Australia, a top 20 player who took advantage of Murray’s heavy legs and lackluster serve that day. Murray tried not to read too much into the result.All journeys have peaks and valleys. As the teachers in Murray’s hot yoga classes would say, the only way out is through — even on those days when the end feels closer than Murray hopes it might.Murray passed on the French Open and played two grass-court ATP Challenger tournaments in England instead. He won both.Ben Stansall/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images More