There is no good way to lose a match but some are better than others. Kyle Edmund can be proud that, unlike Stefanos Tsitsipas, he left the US Open with his dignity intact, fighting for every second of the four hours and 21 minutes it took Pablo Andújar to subdue him in five sets of the most honest endeavour.
The same could not be said of the noisy exit of Tsitsipas, who was heard to say “You’re all weirdos” to Damien Dumusois after the respected French umpire had warned him about interjections from his box in the latter stages of his match against Andry Rublev. The determined young Russian won 6-4, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (7), 7-5 in three hours and 54 minutes, the longest match of his career.
Out too, went the fourth seed and two-time French Open finalist, Dominic Thiem, almost quietly in two hours and 23 minutes as Thomas Fabbiano put together a workmanlike 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 result. The unseeded Italian did the same to Tsitsipas at Wimbledon, which ignited a surlier response than his reaction to defeat on Tuesday.
“The umpire was very incorrect,” Tsitsipas said. “I don’t know what he has against my team but he was complaining about them all the time. I never heard anything from my team from outside the court or to make me play better.”
It would seem to be open season on umpires, a regrettable development.
Edmund, meanwhile, was a model of decorum. Perhaps he is still too nice.Maybe there is a case for him to find his inner Tsitsipas. Or not; he cannot deny his nature. Also, credit must go to 33-year-old Andujar for outlasting him in a 3-6, 7-6 (1), 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 win of several twists and turns.
Edmund has struggled with a knee injury since the 2018 Paris Masters but insisted on his arrival in New York that it felt fabulous; that public declaration of health held up well enough, although there was a noticeable power outage at the very end.
It was a match he would have expected to win, despite losing heavily to the Spaniard the only time they had met previously, in Marrakesh last year.
They exchanged breaks here in a stuttering start, although Andujar, pinned deep by a heavy forehand, looked the more vulnerable.
He has had his moments in a long career but three elbow surgeries and long absences have hindered his game, so they were trading physical frailties.
The British No 1 could not cash in on three break points in the fourth game but still had his nose in front after half an hour and kept it there. He punished Andujar’s second serve to break again with a rocket of a forehand and served out the set in 40 minutes. All looked well.
The second set was following the pattern of the first until Edmund, 3-1 and 4-2 up, lost focus as Andujar fought back to force a tie-break, where he duly pounced to level.
Edmund’s box started to worry when he dropped a close third set but he came to life brilliantly at the end of the fourth, breaking Andujar to love with four exquisite winners across both wings and they were back on equal terms in a close, fascinating match.
Edmund held and broke at the start of the fifth with a well-constructed backhand at the net to suggest he would finish the stronger of the two, but he handed the advantage back straight away. Andujar saved three break points in the fourth game, Edmund four in the 13-minute fifth – but not a fifth, as Andujar’s backhand teased the back line.
After four-and-a-quarter hours Edmund’s fatigue kicked in hard and he was broken to love. Andujar went to match point with his seventh ace, Edmund’s legs leaving him rooted to the spot. Then his arms gave up on him as he framed the last shot of the match.
Andujar will be tired, too. How much he has left for the second round on Thursday is unknown. He plays the 24-year-old Italian Lorenzo Sonego and, while the world No 49 has rarely lived up to his potential, he was too good for the experienced Spaniard, Marcel Granollers, winning 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 on Court 9 in two hours and 21 minutes.
Elsewhere on that side of the draw, the 2014 champion, Marin Cilic gave fans on Court 5 value for money, beating the Slovak Martin Klizan 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (6). Alexander Zverev suffered for his win, though, taking five sets to see off the world No 41, Radu Albot, on Court 17.