Melbourne: For moments during his riveting opening round win on Tuesday at the Australian Open, Andy Murray was under the impression that he was being booed by a section of the crowd at the boisterous John Cain Arena.
The British former world No 1 made his displeasure clear during his post-match interview on court, only to find out later that a few fans were actually imitating Cristiano Ronaldo’s famous “Siuuu!” goal celebration.
“That’s painful stuff there. Those guys ...” Murray said, breaking off during an answer on court as what seemed like jeers ringing out from a section of the stands after his win over Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili.
Portugal and Manchester United striker Ronaldo customarily runs to the corner flag on the pitch, leaps, spins and then lands with his arms outstretched as supporters join in from the stands roaring “Siuuu!” in unison, meaning “Yes” in Spanish.
“Initially, I thought it was, because there were some people booing during my practice yesterday. I have no idea what for,” a smiling Murray later told reporters.
“But then after a few times it was like, ‘No, they’re doing that, I think it’s like “Siuu” or something that Ronaldo does when he scores. And, yeah, it was incredibly irritating,” Murray added, breaking into a smile again.
Murray received plenty of support from the crowd during his match, setting up the mood for Australian Nick Kyrgios to take the court against another British player Liam Broady.
Kyrgios himself did a Ronaldo imitation after his victory as the fans got behind the tennis maverick.
“I can’t believe they did it so much. They were doing some Ronaldo thing. Ronaldo does it every time he scores,” Kyrgios said. “It’s like — I thought they were going to do it for like 10 minutes.
“They did it for two-and-a-half hours, like every point. I don’t know why... It was a zoo out there.”
Murray continued his comeback from hip surgery, winning an Australian Open match for the first time since 2017 with a spirited five-set performance. Murray, who had considered retirement as he recovered, arrived at the tournament as a wild-card entry and beat 21st-seeded Nikoloz Basilashvili, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (7-5), 6-4.
“It’s been a tough three, four years. Put in a lot of work to get back here,” Murray said.
Kyrgios, who pulled out of a tune-up tournament last week after testing positive for the coronavirus, beat qualifier Liam Broady, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3, in a first-round match and said COVID-19 had done a number on him.
“I was training five hours a day, feeling extraordinary, and then it hit me and I was bedridden. Couldn’t really breathe well. Coughing. I was pretty bad,” the 26-year-old said after his first match of 2022. “Like, for someone that you assume is in the peak of his physicality, I got hit pretty bad.”
Kyrgios plays Daniil Medvedev, the Australian Open runner-up to Djokovic in 2021 and last year’s US Open champion, in the next round. Medvedev, the No 2 seed, beat Henri Laaksonen, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), to win his eighth Grand Slam match in a row.
Distraction for everyone
Novak Djokovic put Australia physically far behind him, and Tennis Australia is also hoping to move on, attempting to focus on Australian Open competition in its first comments on the deportation of the sport’s top-ranked male player because he has not been vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The organisation’s board, which had been silent as Djokovic’s status garnered international attention, noted in a statement released on Tuesday that “we respect the decision of the Immigration Minister and the finding of the federal court of Australia over the weekend,” adding that “embarking on a major international sporting event during a global pandemic that continues to evolve and challenge us all is profoundly demanding for all stakeholders.”
Offering support for Craig Tiley, the organisation’s CEO and tournament director, the board and its member associations admitted “recent events have been a significant distraction for everyone, and we deeply regret the impact this had on all players.
“There are always lessons to learn, and we will review all aspects of our preparation and implementation to inform our planning — as we do every year.”
The tournament began on Monday without Djokovic, and Tennis Australia added that it is “keen for the focus to now be on the game we are all so passionate about” and “looking forward to a brilliant two weeks of tennis.”
As for Djokovic, he returned to a warm welcome in Serbia even as he must contemplate the toll his unvaccinated status may take on his quest to break the three-way tie with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most career Grand Slam men’s singles titles (20). Australia isn’t the only country with stringent rules about allowing unvaccinated travellers to enter. Next up on the Grand Slam calendar is the French Open, and France’s latest vaccination rules could make things challenging for Djokovic there as well. The French Open begins May 22, and restrictions could ease by then.