After Andy Murray cruised to a straight-set victory in round one of the US Open, he was shuttled into the largest air-conditioned media room on the ground for his post-match interview. When his future second-round opponent, Emilio Nava, finished off the biggest win of his career in a five-set thriller, he pulled up a seat at a high-top table next to me and two British reporters.
It was a vastly different day one experience for the young, upstart American and the veteran Brit, but who would expect anything different?
Andy Murray got to open the tournament on Arthur Ashe Stadium and easily dispatched of 24th-ranked Fernando Cerundolo in straight sets 7-5, 6-3, 6-3. Emilio Nava was baking in the hot sun on one of the outside courts, grinding out a five-set victory over Australian John Millman 7-6 (9-7), 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 1-6, 6-1.
The 20-year-old Nava was blasting big serves and furiously racing all over the court. The 35-year-old Murray didn’t hit many winners, just 25, but forced long rallies and saw Cerundolo make a whopping 50 unforced errors.
“I managed to defend pretty well today,” Murray said after the match. “I think I moved pretty well today. I don’t think, you know, it was that easy for him to get the ball by me, and he’s a big hitter of the ball. He has a big forehand.”
That ability to read the court and intercept the angles has been huge for Murray as he has gotten older and his movement has lessened a bit.
“I think [reading the court] has always been, yeah, a strength of my game and something that, yeah, I have always been able to rely upon. I mean, I don’t read every single shot, but once you start to play more matches, get a bit more comfortable with your movement, you know, which I do feel like now I’m moving a lot better than I was at this time last year, I’ve got more matches under my belt, so I’m starting to see things a little bit easier on the match court, that, you know, when you combine the two, it makes quite a big difference to my movement.”
It’s certainly not vintage Murray, but the win over a seeded player immediately changes the outlook at the US Open for the Brit. “I mean, essentially I take his spot in the draw now,” explained Murray. “I mean, that’s what you have to do if you’re unseeded is get through some seeds.”
That new draw for Murray begins with his second-round matchup against Nava.
Like fellow American qualifier J.J. Wolf, Nava was not ranked high enough to automatically qualify for the tournament. However, unlike Wolf, who also won his first-round match, Nava wasn’t actually particularly close. The 20-year-old was ranked 203rd heading into the 2022 US Open but has played well of late, going 6-4 in the hard court circuit before surviving his five-set battle against Millman.
“It doesn’t get much better than winning a Grand Slam match at home,” admitted Nava after the match. “It feels amazing. I’m super happy I came away with the win. He’s a tough opponent. He can run for miles and miles and days and days. I just maintained and came away with the win.”
Nava knows a thing or two about running for miles since his parents were both Olympic track athletes representing Mexico and met back at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. But Nava ultimately decided to transition from track and field to tennis, and the move has paid off.
“I think I’d put that number one [biggest win of my career]. Highest-ranked opponent I’ve ever beaten, at a Grand Slam, at home, five sets. Honestly, it doesn’t get much better than that.”
Except that it can if he’s able to pull off the upset of Murray on Wednesday.
“I’m just gonna go out there and have fun.”