Former U.S. Open champion Andy Murray was fuming toward the end of his first-round loss to No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas on Monday — and well afterwards — over what he viewed as an unethically long bathroom break before the decisive fifth set. Tsitsipas also took a medical timeout after losing the third set to Murray to have the trainers look at a foot injury.
Immediately after the bathroom break, which clocked in at roughly eight minutes, Tsitsipas broke Murray’s serve and held on for an eventual 2-6, 7-6 (9-7), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory. Murray complained loudly about it to the chair umpire throughout the fifth set and offered an icy handshake at the net following match point.
Even after cooling down briefly in the locker room, Murray didn’t hesitate to unload on Tsitsipas’ tactics.
“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 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.”
Murray, who is 34 years old and attempting to come back after having a major hip surgery in 2019, said he knows his comments could be construed as sour grapes but said he’d have come into the press conference saying the same thing if he’d won. And he’s not the only player to take issue with Tsitsipas’ lengthy trips to the bathroom after sets.
In fact, at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati fewer than two weeks ago, Alexander Zverev accused Tsitsipas during their semifinal match of taking his cell phone into the restroom after losing the first set and texting with his coach and father Apostolos, which is not allowed on the ATP Tour.
Zverev had no proof that Tsitsipas broke any rules, but at the very least, the long restroom breaks can be viewed as an attempt to disrupt rhythm or frustrate an opponent — and Tsitsipas has gained a reputation for abusing that loophole.
Tsitsipas dismissed the Zverev accusations as the product of his imagination — “I have never in my career done that,” he said — and defended his use of the bathroom breaks.
“I think it’s clear that I took my clothes with me when I left the court, and that’s the amount of time it takes for me to change my clothes and come back to the court — takes a little bit of time,” he said. “As far as I know you’re allowed to have two toilet breaks to change clothes in a five setter and one in a three setter, so I’ve followed that throughout my career and never broken any rules so I see no reason that that’s a problem anyways.”
Murray said the issue isn’t taking the breaks but the amount of time Tsitsipas was off the court, which allowed his body to cool down and stiffen up before going right back into the match. He could be heard on the court saying that Tsitsipas was cheating by taking so long.
“He knows. The other players know. The fact that I was talking to my team about it before the match, we knew it was coming,” Murray said. “You could argue that I shouldn’t let that affect me. But genuinely it is difficult, like, when you’re playing such a brutal match in those conditions to have those breaks. Physically you can’t stop that from affecting you. Mentally, yes, but physically you can’t.”
Using bathroom breaks and unnecessary medical timeouts as a tactical ploy has long been a topic on tour, but it’s unclear what the tennis tours should do about it because there are obviously situations where players need to leave the court and either get treatment, use the restroom or quickly change into dry clothes.
“If people don’t care enough about it to change, then that’s fine,” Murray said. “I’ll speak to my team about it. I’ll listen to what, I don’t know, fans, players, and everything are saying about it. Maybe I’m being unreasonable. Maybe I’m overreacting to something because I lost the match. But, yeah, right now sitting here I feel like it’s nonsense and they need to make a change because it’s not good for the sport, it’s not good for TV, it’s not good for fans.
“I don’t think it’s a good look for the players either. I’m sitting in here after a match like that against one of the best players in the world, and rather than talking about how fantastic he is, how good he is for the game, how great it was for me that I was able to put on a performance like that after everything that’s gone on the last four years, but I’m sitting in here talking about bathroom breaks and medical timeouts and delays in matches. That’s rubbish. I don’t think that that’s right.”
Tsitsipas said he looks up to Murray and would try to speak with him one-on-one about the issue.
“If there’s something that he has to tell me, we should speak the two of us to understand what went wrong,” Tsitsipas said. “I don’t think I broke any rules. I played by the guidelines and how everything is. It’s definitely something for both of us to kind of chat about because I don’t know how my opponent feels when I’m out there playing the match. It’s not really my priority. I’m playing by the rules and sticking to what the ATP says is fair, so the rest is fine.”