There was plenty of chatter at the US Open on Tuesday after Andy Murray blasted No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas for an extended bathroom break Monday night.
Alexander Zverev even doubled down on a prior accusation that Tsitsipas uses his breaks to receive illegal coaching from his dad during matches.
How did we get here?
The drama started between the fourth and fifth sets of Murray’s opening-round match against Tsitsipas late Monday. Tsitsipas left the court during the nearly five-hour match for a bathroom break that reportedly took around eight minutes. Murray complained to the chair umpire as Tsitsipas’ break lingered.
“It’s never once taken me that long to go to the toilet, ever,” he continued, pleading then to supervisor Gerry Armstrong.
He then yelled at Tsitsipas to “get up!“ when he returned to the court only to sit on his bench for a sip of water. Tsitsipas broke Murray’s serve in the ensuing game and went on to secure a 2-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory to avoid an upset at the hands of the 2012 US Open champion.
Murray didn’t leave his rancor on the court. He told reporters after the match that the bathroom break influenced the outcome of the match and that he “lost respect” for his opponent.
“It’s just disappointing because I feel it influenced the outcome of the match,” Murray said. “I’m not saying I necessarily win that match, for sure, but it had influence on what was happening after those breaks.
“I rate him a lot. I think he’s a brilliant player. I think he’s great for the game, but I have zero time for that stuff at all, and I lost respect for him.”
Come Tuesday morning, Murray wasn’t done. This time, he took his complaints to Twitter.
Zverev sides with Murray, revives cheating accusation
Tuesday also allowed Zverev to chime in. The gold-medal winner at the Tokyo Olympics didn’t hold back.
“It’s not normal,” Zverev told reporters. “It’s happening every match. It happened to me in the French Open, to Novak (Djokovic) at the finals at the French Open. You know, I think in Hamburg against [Filip] Krajinovic he was complaining, against me in Cincinnati was ridiculous, and now here again. I think players are catching up on that.”
Zverev has previously accused Tsitsipas of using extended bathroom breaks to receive coaching from his father and coach Apostolos Tsitsipas. Doing so would violate regulations prohibiting coaching during a match. He revived his claim on Tuesday.
“He’s gone for 10-plus minutes,” Zverev continued. “His dad is texting on the phone. He comes out, and all of a sudden his tactic completely changed. It’s not just me, but everybody saw it. The whole game plan changes.
“Either it’s a very magical place he goes to, or there is communication there.”
No disrespect, of course.
“But I also don’t want to disrespect him,” Zverev added. “He is a great player. He is No. 3 in the world for a reason.”
Tsitsipas’ response to cheating charge
Rothenberg reports that Tsitsipas denied any accusations of illegal activity.
“I have never in my career done that; I don’t know what kind of imagination it takes to go to that point,” Tsitsipas said. “That’s not something I want to take seriously because it’s absolutely ridiculous to be thinking about that.”
Zverev wasn’t the only player to have Murray’s back in the bathroom kerfuffle. Milos Raonic also supported the ousted Brit, though much more efficiently. And without the cheating accusation.
Tsitsipas has at least one ally
One player — at least — is on Tsitsipas’ side. American Reilly Opelka argued that he was justified to take the time to change and accused Tsitsipas’ media critics of not knowing what it’s like to be a real athlete.
“To change or to go after, you know, two sets we’re drinking, we’re hydrating a lot, we have to use the bathroom,” he said. “To change my socks, shoes, my inserts in my shoes, shorts, shirt, everything, the whole nine yards, hat, it takes five, six minutes. Then by the time I walk to and from the court.
“If people don’t understand that, then clearly they’ve never spent a day in the life of a professional athlete or come close to it.”
What does the USTA think of all the drama? It’s looking into it, according to a statement provided to the Times:
“We need to continue to review and explore potential adjustments to the rules, whether for bathroom breaks/change of attire or other areas, that can positively impact the pace of play for our fans and ensure the fairness and integrity of the game.”