Tennis: Wawrinka beats Murray at rare ATP Challenger Tour match

AP , Wednesday 17 May 2023

Far from the Grand Slam stages on which both have starred, Stan Wawrinka beat Andy Murray 6-3, 6-0 on Wednesday in what is believed to be the first ATP Challenger Tour matchup between two past major champions in more than 40 years.

ATP Challenger Tour
FILE - Britain s Andy Murray, left, and Switzerland s Stan Wawrinka pose for photographers prior to their semifinal match of the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Friday, June 3, 2016. Stan Wawrinka beat Andy Murray 6-3, 6-0 in Bordeaux, France, on Wednesday, May 17, 2023, in what is believed to be the first ATP Challenger Tour matchup in more than 40 years between two past major champions. Photo: AP.


Each man has won three Grand Slam titles — Wawrinka at the 2014 Australian Open, 2015 French Open and 2016 U.S. Open; Murray at the 2012 U.S. Open and Wimbledon in 2013 and 2016. Each has needed multiple operations in more recent times — Wawrinka to his left knee and left foot; Murray to his hip, including the insertion of a metal implant. Each is older than 35: Wawrinka is 38; Murray turned 36 on Monday.

Wawrinka once was ranked as high as No. 3 and is currently 84th. Murray once went all the way up at No. 1 and is now 42nd.

Their 22 past career meetings on the ATP’s top level (Murray leads, 13-9) include seven head-to-head showdowns at majors (Wawrinka leads 4-3). That featured matches in the semifinals of the French Open in 2016 (won by Murray) and 2017 (won by Wawrinka).

This latest encounter was also on red clay, but in the second round at a club in Bordeaux, near the coast and about 350 miles (560 kilometers) southwest of Roland Garros — with much smaller stakes and a much smaller audience.

Still, the duo did walk out onto the court to a standing ovation. Wawrinka, wearing a lilac polo shirt and black shorts, went up an early break at 3-1, then held five set points while ahead 5-2 as Murray served. Murray, in a pale orange T-shirt and black shorts, fended off those chances and held for 5-3 — but wouldn’t claim another game.

By the end, Wawrinka had saved the only break point he faced, while winning four of Murray’s seven service games.

Wawrinka and Murray both went to Bordeaux after early losses at the Masters 1000 tournament in Rome last week. The French Open starts in Paris on May 28.

The ATP said this was thought to be the first meeting on the ATP Challenger Tour between two men who had won Grand Slam titles since Ilie Nastase beat Jan Kodes in San Remo, Italy, in 1981.

Challengers are a level below the main ATP tour, mostly filled with players trying to move up. Sometimes, players hoping to work their way back from poor results or time off because of injuries will turn to Challengers to seek rankings points and match action.

Murray, for example, went to the Challenger event in Aix-en-Provence and won his first title at that level since 2005 by beating Australian Open semifinalist Tommy Paul in the final on May 7.

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