WASHINGTON — Andy Murray thanked fans for taking off — or skipping — work to watch him play in the DC Open on a Wednesday afternoon.
His vintage performance made it worth it.
Cheered loudly and vociferously by the crowd at stadium court, the three-time Grand Slam champion and former top-ranked men’s player rallied to win the first-set tiebreak and beat American Brandon Nakashima 7-6 (5), 6-4. It’s his first win in Washington since 2018, a low point of Murray’s career when fatigue caused him to withdraw and he didn’t want to play tennis anymore.
The British star has no such issues now and showed clearly that at 36 he’s still got it.
“It’s nice to be back and not having any of those issues and being pain-free and still competing at a high level,” Murray said. “It’s been a long journey these last four or five years, but I’m happy to still be going.”
Murray is still going at this hard-court tune-up for the US Open after coming back from down 5-2 in the tiebreak. He sliced shots perfectly over the net and returned some strong volleys that Nakashima couldn’t handle.
Fans yelled, “I love you Andy!” and chanted, “Let’s go, Andy, let’s go!” to boost him throughout the match, which he took over by breaking Nakashima to start the second set.
“I wanted to try to get off to a quick start put the pressure on him right at the beginning of the second,” Murray said. “You’ve got to work very hard for the win, and I did that today.”
Next up for Murray is top-seeded Taylor Fritz, who defeated fellow American Zachary Svajda 6-3, 6-3.
On stadium court following Murray’s victory, the women’s side of the draw took center stage with seventh-ranked Coco Gauff beating Washington native Hailey Baptiste. In what she calls a rebuilding period after adding coach Brad Gilbert to her team, Gauff grinded through some tough stretches to win 6-1, 6-4.
Gauff said she has known Baptiste since she was 10 years old and was happy to face her in a matchup of two young, Black women who hadn’t played each other as professionals.
“Growing up, there wasn’t a lot of us, and we obviously gravitated to people that had the similar experiences as each other, so I gravitated to being friends with her,” Gauff said. “I told her at the net, ‘Hopefully we can have many more opportunities like this in the future.'”
Gauff, 19, spent most of her on-court interview following the match praising Baptiste, who’s just 21.
“I’ve been telling her she’s really talented,” Gauff said. “I was playing good tennis, but I think she could be top 50, at least, and even higher by the end of next year.”
Gauff advanced to the quarterfinals, where she’ll face 15th-ranked Belinda Bencic, who beat American Lauren Davis 6-1, 6-4. Madison Keys advanced into the round of 16 with a 7-5, 6-1 victory against China’s Qinwen Zheng.
Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina improved to 8-0 against Russia’s Daria Kasatkina, beating her 6-2, 6-2 in their first matchup since the French Open. Just as she has against players from Russia and ally Belarus since the invasion in February 2022, Svitolina did not shake hands after the match, despite Kasatkina speaking out against the war.
Svitolina will face either fourth-ranked Jessica Pegula or alternate Peyton Stearns in the quarterfinals. Pegula, the tournament’s top seed, is tentatively scheduled to play Stearns on stadium court Thursday night.
Elsewhere in the men’s draw, third-seeded Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime lost 7-6(10), 7-6(3) to Japan’s Yosuke Watanuki, seventh-seeded Adrian Mannarino lost 7-5, 6-4 to Australia’s Jordan Thompson and 11th-seeded Christopher Eubanks beat Sho Shimabukuro 6-3, 6-4.
Gael Monfils, who won this tournament in 2016, beat sixth-seeded Alexander Bublik 6-3, 6-4.
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