NEW YORK • As a brutal late-summer sun scorched the US Open courts, and for the second straight day, an extreme-heat policy afforded the men's players a 10-minute break during their matches, a sunburnt Stefanos Tsitsipas stated the thought that was on everyone's minds.
"There is no fresh air. It's like you're playing in the desert," the 20-year-old and Greek 15th seed said after losing 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in the second round to Russian Daniil Medvedev on Wednesday.
"I believe the one that's going to win this tournament is going to be the one that, mentally, is prepared for long matches in the heat and physically knows that he's going to have to overcome difficulties."
Ten men had already retired over the first three days of the year's final Grand Slam by the time Andy Murray stepped off the court, having lost 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 to 31st seed Fernando Verdasco.
Unlike some of his fellow professionals, Murray did not need to retire despite temperatures that pushed close to 40 deg C, 44 per cent humidity and a stifling lack of airflow in the cavernous stadium.
But, in his first Grand Slam tournament since hip surgery in January, the inhospitable conditions wore down the Scot and he succumbed to Verdasco on Wednesday for the first time in nine years and just the second time in 15 meetings.
Murray had realistic expectations ahead of the tournament, viewing it as more of a measure of his recovery status and he left his first foray into best-of-five-set tennis since last year's Wimbledon feeling encouraged.
"It was still extremely hot in there. Pretty challenging conditions. Certainly some of the toughest you'll play in during the year," the former world No. 1 said.
"To sort of still be doing as well as I was at the end of the match, considering the lack of kind of practice that I've had, was positive."
The heat was not the only thing playing on Murray's mind as he took exception to the sight of Verdasco chatting with his coach - players are prohibited from doing so - during the break.
"I had to tell them (the officials), because nobody knows the f*****g rules," he said. "This is one of the biggest events in the world.
"If you have rules like that, you need to stick with them because one player getting to speak to the coach, and the other doesn't, is not fair."
His Spanish opponent disputed the account after the match, insisting: "I don't want to say he lied, but I didn't talk one word with my coach. I know the rule exactly."
It was a breeze on court for world No. 1 and defending champion Rafael Nadal after easing into the third round with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory over unseeded Canadian Vasek Pospisil.
"To win in straight sets is always positive," said the Spaniard, who will face 27th seed Karen Khachanov of Russia today.
In the women's draw, Czech qualifier Karolina Muchova stunned two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 to dump the 12th-seeded Spaniard out in the second round.
"It's the first match for me on such a big stadium so I was feeling nervous. Somehow I got used to it, I don't know how," said the world No. 202, who is making her debut in the main draw of a Grand Slam.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, WASHINGTON POST
Singtel TV Ch114 & StarHub Ch208, 10.30pm and Ch115 & Ch209, 11pm