Despite being the reigning U.S. Open champion, Andy Murray faces the tough task of defending his crown this time around. Murray, the No. 3 seed, has to overcome some obstacles if he plans to repeat as champion.
Time and Weather
Murray heads into action on the third day of tournament play Wednesday night at 7 ET—or midnight UK time—against Michael Llodra. This gives Murray a huge disadvantage, via the Telegraph’s Simon Briggs:
And that, in turn, will leave him with considerably less time to rest and recover. If he goes on to retain his title, he will probably have played seven matches in 13 days.
The fact that Murray does not start until the third day of the tournament, approximately 48 hours after tournament-favorite Rafael Nadal, represents a huge obstacle for Murray to overcome.
While Murray is scheduled to play Wednesday night, his first match could be pushed back to another day because of the weather situation in New York, via BBC Sports:
And with the forecast suggesting thunderstorms will threaten New York, the Scot faces the prospect of going into day four having not completed his first match.
If the match is indeed pushed back another day, things only get harder for Murray. He will have less time to recover and prepare for his next match (if he advances, of course).
First Round Matchup
Murray entered the tournament ranked No. 3 but faces a tough challenge in Llodra. Despite a 3-0 record against the Frenchman, Murray understands the difficulty of the matchup, via BBC Sports:
It's a tough match. Llodra is a tricky player, serves well, one of the best doubles player in the world just now, very good hands, and he's very unpredictable.
Llodra will almost certainly present a big challenge for Murray. Razwan Mirza of skysports.com writes why:
Llodra is that rare beast, a serve-volleyer, and that presents its own challenges, especially in the first match of a major tournament.
If Murray advances, he still faces a difficult road to the finals, as he would presumably be faced up against No. 5 seed Tomas Berdych and potentially Novak Djokovic, via skysports.com.
Neither of these matchups will be easy for Murray, especially if he were to draw a match against Djokovic. But Murray has had recent success against Djokovic, via ESPN:
Murray earned his first Grand Slam championship by beating Djokovic in the 2012 U.S. Open final, then added a second by beating the No. 1-ranked Serb in the Wimbledon title match last month. But there can't be a rematch in New York in the final, thanks to Thursday's draw.
Murray can only play against Djokovic in the semifinals after the draw, meaning that Murray would have to face one of his biggest challenges relatively early.
While Murray has proved he can win this tournament, he has several obstacles to overcome before he can once again be crowned as the U.S. Open champion.