John McEnroe has defended the timing of Andy Murray’s withdrawal from the US Open after Rafael Nadal described it as strange.
Nadal said following his first-round win over Dusan Lajovic in New York that it was “difficult to understand” why Murray pulled out on Saturday, after the draw but still two days before his scheduled first match.
“Normally you want to keep practising, keep trying until the last moment,” said the Spaniard. “You don’t retire Saturday morning. You retire Monday morning or Sunday afternoon. If not, you can do it before the draw. That’s why I say it’s strange.”
Murray decided after his practice session on Saturday lunchtime that his troublesome hip was too sore to allow him to compete.
Had he pulled out before Friday’s draw, the seedings would have been reshuffled and Roger Federer moved to number two, meaning he and Nadal would not have been in the same half.
McEnroe, interviewed on Eurosport, said: “I don’t blame Murray at all because he waited as long as he can to see if that hip would react in a positive way, so I think it’s just bad luck for him that he didn’t. I think that people obviously knew since he hadn’t played a single match since Wimbledon that this was an issue.
“I don’t know exactly what the rules are but when he pulled out they should have put Roger Federer on the bottom half of the draw and that would be problem solved. Instead they have some crazy rule and I don’t get it.”
“I think a fair amount of people saw it coming. Andy was waiting as late as possible, but if I were him I would have waited another day or so. I think he just said: ‘Look I can’t go all the way here.’
“The good news for the bottom half of the draw is you’re going to have opportunities galore and we’ll get to see if a couple of other players like [Marin] Cilic can win here. It’s unpredictable but it makes it very exciting for everyone.”
McEnroe, meanwhile, is happy to see Maria Sharapova back at a grand slam.
The former world number one is making her first appearance at one of tennis’ showpiece events since her 15-month doping ban after controversially being given a wild card.
Sharapova certainly fulfilled her prime-time billing, knocking out second seed Simona Halep in a first-round classic, and McEnroe believes tennis needs her.
He said: “I think in the third set of her opening match, people started to remember what Sharapova was about, they remembered they respect her.
“I thought that Sharapova was getting tired in the second set, but she continued to battle, showed a lot of heart and came through.
“We are all interested to see if she can bounce back from her 15-month suspension. You see other sports where suspensions aren’t nearly as long, so I think she’s paid her dues and I think the sport, especially on the women’s side, needs her back, especially with Serena missing.”
Sharapova was due to play her second-round match against Hungary’s Timea Babos later on Wednesday.