Murray out of comfort zone as NYC braces for Hurricane Irene


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The Independent Online

With widespread flooding forecast along the American east coast this weekend a tennis tournament hardly matters in the grand scheme of things, but organisers of the US Open were among those having to make contingency arrangements yesterday in preparation for the imminent arrival of Hurricane Irene.

Today's charity event, Arthur Ashe Kids' Day, has been cancelled and the tennis centre will be shut all day tomorrow. With much of the public transport system likely to be shut down there is every chance that the year's final Grand Slam tournament will not start as scheduled on Monday.

Like all the other competitors, Andy Murray has been among those making alternative arrangements in his final preparations. "We've booked practice courts indoors for Saturday and Sunday in case the weather is really bad so we are at least able to get some hits in," the 24-year-old Scot said here yesterday.

"It could prove a bit of a nightmare. I think for everyone it's difficult. I guess people will be looking to have as much hitting time as possible over the next few days to get in as much as possible. Then you may have to mix up your training, do more stuff indoors. You won't know if you will start on Monday, Tuesday or whenever. It's never happened to me before – or anyone else – so there's no right way of dealing with it."

He added: "We're staying on the 40th floor of a hotel, so that's probably not the best place to be. Should we be looking to move? Is it going to be fine in Manhattan? You see people in the news evacuating, boarding up the windows. Are they doing the right thing? In the UK you don't get weather like that. I'm not scared, but in a weird way I am interested to see what it will be like."

It has certainly been a different week for the world No 4, who was here with his coach, Dani Vallverdu, when an earthquake shook the city on Tuesday. "I was sitting down in the locker room," Murray said. "I had just come in from practice and I thought I was going to faint, that I was dizzy. Then after about 20 seconds I was feeling normal but the ground was moving. Dani was saying: 'No, no, what are you talking about?' "I said: 'No, trust me, the ground is moving, there's an earthquake.' Everyone in the locker room was saying: 'Did you feel that?' I could feel it in my legs, the lockers were open and were moving. Also in the lunch hall it was really bad. They evacuated the gym and everyone upstairs. The ground was shaking for three minutes. It was something I've never experienced before."

Despite the disruption to his preparations Murray is feeling in good shape after his victory in the Cincinnati Masters last weekend, when he became only the second player this year to beat Novak Djokovic, who retired in the second set with a sore shoulder. Murray is hoping that his preparations for the US Open will have been better than in the last two years, when he went out in the fourth and third rounds after possibly pushing himself too hard during his training block in Miami before the start of the American hard-court season.

"I just need to make sure I am peaking for these tournaments," he said. "I think I've done a good job of that this year. I feel pretty fresh, I've hit a lot of balls and I've had good matches."

John McEnroe is among those who expects Murray to perform well again on these courts, the Scot having reached his first Grand Slam final here three years ago. "I think he feeds off the energy in New York," McEnroe said. "He has a tendency to get negative if he's left to his own devices, but there's so much energy in New York that I think it can help him at times.

"He still has to be careful because he looked a little bit flummoxed and mentally out of it earlier this summer and also last year at the US Open. He played a couple of matches where you are wondering: 'What is going on?' I would think the hunger levels should be so high right now so that if he gets some confidence and he can get on a roll, that should push him through."

McEnroe, who will be playing at the Aegon Masters at the Royal Albert Hall later this year, believes the surface at Flushing Meadows plays to Murray's strengths. "Movement-wise, the edge that he has against everyone comes out more on a hard court," he said. "He doesn't look that confident on clay, although this year he looked better. On grass there's so much pressure, so I think New York suits him, where he is further away and can distance himself from the pressure."

He added: "Murray has been in three Slam finals, so people need to keep some sort of perspective. What Novak has been doing this year has been historic. It's a year in which, in 30 years' time, people are going to be wondering: 'Can someone top this?' This isn't something that comes along on a regular basis."

Laura Robson and Naomi Broady were among those who had to play their last two rounds of qualifying matches yesterday as organisers raced to finish the competition before Irene's arrival.

Both Britons won their second matches, Robson beating the American Taylor Townsend 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 and Broady overcoming Taipei's Kai-Chen Chang 6-4, 5-7, 6-3. Robson was meeting Hong Kong's Ling Zhang in the third round, while Broady was facing France's Stephanie Foretz Gacon. Three British women – Elena Baltacha, Anne Keothavong and Heather Watson – are already in the main draw thanks to their world rankings.