'It's strange' - Rafael Nadal pointedly questions timing of Andy Murray's US Open withdrawal
Rafael Nadal hinted at annoyance with the timing of Andy Murray's withdrawal from the US Open, describing it as "difficult to understand".
The world number two had looked set to play in New York having practised at Flushing Meadows for a week only to decide after a final hit on Saturday lunchtime that his hip was too sore.
Had Murray pulled out prior to Friday's draw, Roger Federer would have moved up to number two seed and he and Nadal would not have been in the same half of the draw.
Nadal, who defeated Serbia's Dusan Lajovic 7-6, (6), 6-2, 6-2 in his opening-round match, said: "I always thought that he was going to be playing if he was here practising.
"It was a little bit strange that he retired just the morning after the draw was made. It was something that is a little bit strange and difficult to understand.
"Normally you want to keep practising, keep trying until the last moment. 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. But of course he has his reason, and for sure the only news, and the negative news, was that he will not be playing here.
"Injuries are bad for everybody. I know better than all of them. So I wish him fast and good recovery. That's the most important thing."
Nadal, who pulled out of Wimbledon in 2009 on the Friday night after the draw had been made due to ongoing knee problems, ultimately won comfortably against Lajovic but looked far from comfortable during the opening set under the roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The world number one dropped serve in the third game and free-swinging Lajovic maintained his advantage until he was broken serving for the set.
Nadal then let a 3-0 lead in the tie-break slip away before double-faulting on his first set point but relaxed after taking the second one and was untroubled thereafter.
The Spaniard complained about the noise made by the crowd during the match. There is always a constant hum at the US Open with fans talking and moving around, which becomes magnified by the roof.
Nadal said: "Being honest, it's a little bit too much. The umpire has to control that.
"The energy and support of the crowd is massive. I enjoy it and I have unforgettable memories from this tournament and this court, because the energy is different from in other places.
"But at the same time it's true that today, under the roof, it was too much. I was not able to hear the ball."
Despite climbing back to the top of the rankings it has been a frustrating couple of months for Nadal, who was beaten by Gilles Muller in the fourth round of Wimbledon before suffering losses to Denis Shapovalov and Nick Kyrgios on the North American hard courts.
He knows he will have to play better than he did against Lajovic if he is to challenge for a third title at Flushing Meadows and believes he is ready to do that.
"My approach to the tournament obviously is still positive," said Nadal. "I have been playing well during the whole season, and I really had a very positive week of practice here.
"So I am confident I am ready to play much better than what I did today, and I believe that I'm going to do it."
Nadal's second-round opponent will be either American wild card Tommy Paul or Taro Daniel of Japan, with their match falling victim to the wet weather in New York on Tuesday.