For Andy Murray – and other players spooked by a minor outbreak of food poisoning and other ailments at the US Open – Flushing Meadows has become strictly a place of work, and somewhere to leave quickly when the job is done.
Murray, who plays the dangerous Robin Haase in the second round on Friday, said, "There have been a lot of players dropping out [15 by lunch on day four], which is a worry."
On Wednesday, the Swedish No6 seed Robin Soderling went home with a virus that first flared in Cincinnati two weeks ago, then Venus Williams pulled out with an auto-immune disease called Sjogren's syndrome. On Tuesday, the Irish player Conor Niland retired after two sets against Roger Federer with food poisoning, and his compatriot Louk Sorensen was forced to quit with cramp during his match against the Brazilian lucky loser, Rogerio Dutra Da Silva, a late replacement for Soderling. On Thursday, Radek Stepanek quit against Juan Mónaco, and Ana Ivanovic went through on a walkover when Petra Cetkovska withdrew in the morning. These injuries and illnesses have plagued tennis as the schedule has become increasingly punishing.
"You can take special tablets which boost your immune system and I'm doing that," said Murray, whose favourite hotel near Central Park has become his haven from dangers real and perceived.
"You have to be careful as a lot of people have been getting sick and you want to stay away from it. I have been avoiding the locker rooms as much as possible. You don't want to be hanging about or sit more than you need to and I have been trying to get out of the stadium just as soon as I can whenever I am done."
Murray was the last of the leading contenders to start his campaign here, beating the 64th ranked Somdev Devvarman impressively in straight sets after a nervous start. The world No4 knows Haase well, even though they have played only once, three years ago in Rotterdam, where the Dutchman caused a minor upset.
"I lost to Haase in the first round – the week after I won in Marseille," Murray said. "I took a bit of time getting used to the court and he took advantage of that. He has got a big game, a big serve and he is quite unpredictable. He has made life difficult for a lot of good players.
"I have known him since the juniors, when I was 12 or 13. The British team used to go over to Holland to play against their best kids. He was the same now as he was back then. He always hits the ball big. He can be quite inconsistent so that is what I will have to play on."
Haase, of course, well remembers their match in 2008. "I think he was a little tired," he said. "We played on Wednesday to give him a day more, but maybe it was not only physical but also mental. If you win a title it is always tough to come back.
"If you see my results, I can beat almost anyone so why not Murray? I am not going to reveal how I will play but I will definitely have to get my percentage of errors really low.
"I need to be there mentally for every point because he is not giving you anything. And then, of course, I need to serve well. If I serve like [when beating Rio Machado on Wednesday] I will be really happy – but even then it is going to be much more difficult because Andy is a great returner."
Haase, now 24, reckons Murray's experience in the juniors put him ahead of players such as himself, who stayed at school and missed out on the extra tennis in his teenage years.
"He was always further on when he was 16, 17 and was practising already in Barcelona. I went to school until I was 18 and a half. I don't know how he did it but I know from [Novak] Djokovic, [Juan Martín] Del Potro, these guys finished school when they were 15, something like that, so they had a big advantage, maybe not even the quality of tennis, but the quantity.
"When you come from juniors into the pros you need to have had many hours on the court and they had that already. And Andy was a little further [advanced] than I was in juniors. So that is why Andy got so quickly to the top. When I finished my school, I started to play some Futures when he was already 50 in the world or something."
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