NEW YORK • Rafael Nadal has questioned the timing of Andy Murray's withdrawal from the US Open, suggesting that the Briton could have decided before the draw was made.
Murray, who had been seeded No. 2, pulled out of the tournament after a practice session on Saturday afternoon owing to the ongoing pain in his hip.
Had he withdrawn before the draw ceremony on Friday morning, Roger Federer would have been placed in the opposite half to Nadal, ensuring that the arch-rivals could not meet before the final.
Todd Woodbridge, the former Australian player, said Murray "ruined the draw", and Nadal, the world No. 1, too added his criticism.
"I always thought that he was going to play if he was here practising," the Spaniard said.
"It was a little bit strange that he retired just the morning after the draw was made. It is something that is a little bit strange and difficult to understand, but the worst thing is he is not healthy and I wish him a very fast recovery."
In 2009, Nadal pulled out of Wimbledon because of injury on the Friday evening before the tournament - after the draw had been made earlier that morning - but he insists that players should try to withdraw as early as possible.
"Normally you want to keep practising, keep trying until the last moment," he said. "You retire on Monday morning or Sunday afternoon, not Saturday morning. If not, you can do it before the draw.
"That's why I say it is strange. But of course he has his reason, and for sure the negative news was that he will not be playing here."
Nadal was not at his best during the early stages of his first-round match on Tuesday, but eventually found his range after a tight first set to run out a 7-6 (8-6), 6-2, 6-2 winner against Dusan Lajovic, the world No. 85 from Serbia.
The match was played under the roof at the Arthur Ashe Stadium because of persistent rain at Flushing Meadows which forced the other matches on the outside courts to be cancelled.
Nadal complained about the noise levels inside the stadium, created by a large crowd of around 23,000 spectators.
"The energy and support of the crowd is massive. I enjoy it," he said. "But at the same time it is true that, under the roof, it was too much noise. I was not able to hear the ball when I was hitting."
THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE