Leon Smith feels criticism of the timing of Andy Murray’s withdrawal from the US Open is completely unfair.
The world number two tested out his problematic hip during a week of training at Flushing Meadows before announcing at his scheduled pre-tournament press conference on Saturday that he was not fit enough to compete.
Had Murray pulled out prior to Friday’s draw, Roger Federer would have become the number two seed and been placed in the opposite half to Rafael Nadal, opening the possibility of a final clash between the pair.
Instead, Federer and Nadal stay in the same half with fifth seed Marin Cilic taking over Murray’s slot in what is clearly a much weaker section.
Critics have claimed Murray would have known before Saturday that he would not be fit to play given he has been battling the hip problem for two and a half months.
Todd Woodbridge, one of the game’s greatest doubles players, was sympathetic to Murray’s situation but said he had “ruined” the draw.
Great Britain Davis Cup captain Smith cannot understand such thinking, telling Press Association Sport: “If you look at Andy, how many times has he ever retired from matches? This guy has given everything to the sport, he’s always competed hard.
“If you look what happened at Wimbledon when he was clearly in pain, he still fought to the end, he didn’t turn round and shake hands.
“You’ve worked all your life to get to this point and give yourself a chance to play. Sport’s like that, you have to wait. Sometimes you think another 24 hours and you’ll get there.”
Murray made the decision after a final practice session with Lucas Pouille on Saturday, during which it was apparent he was still limping.
He had spent the six weeks since his quarter-final exit to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon doing everything possible to try to recover in time for Flushing Meadows.
Murray fought back tears as he made the announcement, and Smith, a close friend, said: “He’s in the truest sense of the word a competitor.
“That’s why he works so hard is to get on the court, it’s not for the money or anything else, it’s playing tennis matches and figuring out opponents, fighting, and it’s a real shame that opportunity has been taken away at this tournament and maybe more weeks or months to follow.
“Just watching him in the press conference yesterday, when he sat down and he looked so emotional, you really felt for him.
“You know how much he would have done to manage his body to this point, painstaking rehab programmes which are challenging to follow, but it’s all worthwhile when you get to play.
“But when you do all that and then you don’t get to play, you can see why he’d be upset.”