Andy Murray escaped his earliest US Open exit in 10 years Thursday as the searing heat at Flushing Meadows took the number of men’s singles retirements to a Grand Slam record 12.
Third seed and 2012 champion Murray came back from two sets down to defeat tiring Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 5-7, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Murray goes on to face 30th seed, Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci for a place in the last 16.
“It was extremely tough. He hits the ball really flat, has fantastic timing on both sides and it was hard to read the ball in the first two sets,” said 28-year-old Murray after his eighth career comeback from two sets to love down.
Murray, who had needed four sets to beat Nick Kyrgios in the opening round, fired 21 aces – the last of which was on match point – while Mannarino was undone by 61 unforced errors.
Meanwhile, America’s Jack Sock and Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin retired from their matches as they wilted in the 33-degree heat.
Twelve men – a record at the majors – as well as two women have quit matches in the first four days.
22-year-old Sock was leading Belgium’s Ruben Bemelmans 6-4 6-4 3-6 1-2 when he started cramping and was forced to retire.
Sock, the 28th seed, then collapsed on the court, where he was treated with ice packs and cold towels by US Open medical staff before being helped off to the shade of the Grandstand Court.
Bemelmans next plays fifth-seeded French Open champion Stan Wawrinka who beat South Korean teenager Hyeon Chung 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (8-6).
Istomin also called it quits on Court Seven against Austrian 20th seed Dominic Thiem, who was 6-4 6-4 1-0 up at the time, with his win coming on his 22nd birthday.
The carnage led to suggestions that the men, who play the best of five sets, should be accorded the same protection as female players.
The WTA allows a 10-minute break between the second and third sets of women’s matches when the mercury bursts through 30.1 degrees.
“I honestly don’t know what I want to see. I’m normally OK with heat and humidity,” said Wawrinka.
“I don’t have problem physically. Never retired because of that. Never had really big cramping or big problem because of that.
“For me, it’s fine. I’m still OK with no rule.”
American John Isner and German Phillipp Kohlschreiber both cruised into the third round with straight sets victories.
The biggest casualty so far on day four was huge-serving Croat Ivo Karlovic.
The 21st seed and tour veteran surprisingly losing both tie-breaks in his match with rising Czech player Jiri Vesely.