The US Open did its best to shut down any pushback on the political squabbling and nit-picking which delayed Friday’s third-round match won by fifth seed Alexander Zverev over Adrian Mannarino 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.

The match was delayed for three hours before finally starting at 5 pm local.

Adrian Mannarino in action during Men’s Singles match at the 2020 US Open. Photo by Rhea Nall/USTA

Reports indicated that New York state health officials unexplainably sprang into action shortly before the mid-afternoon match time, since Mannarino had been one of a group of players slightly exposed to Benoit Paire, who tested positive and then a few days later, negative for COVID 19.

The reports indicated that the final OK for Mannarino to take to the court had to come from the top of the local power structure.

A decision not to hold the USTA in contempt of State laws came and let the match begin ended up arriving straight from the desk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, accounting for the hours-long delay to the start of play.

The USTA said in a terse statement: “The Zverev-Mannarino match was delayed while a collaborative dialogue with health officials was conducted today. 

“Communication with the players was ongoing during the afternoon to keep them updated at all times. 

“Given the sensitivity of the medical issues involved, the USTA is not able to provide further details.”

During the mystery pause, Zverev was pictured shirtless with his phone lounging on the patio of the Ashe stadium suites given over the leading seeds at the no-fan, locked-down event.

Players in the “Paire 11” had been allowed to play matches but were put under special quarantine before the state of New York twigged that the “rules” were not being strictly enforced.

But problems arose when players from the group who had already lost and were out of the tournament were ordered to serve out 14-day quarantines in their hotel rooms instead of being free to head home to Europe.

That major issue is still hanging, with dissatisfaction and ill will kicking up on both sides of the Atlantic.

Under quarantine rules, the affected players – none of whom has tested positive or shown symptoms – could not use the player hotel main entrance, had to take the stairs and were not allowed to leave their rooms except to travel to matches.

But as soon as they lose on court, they remain prisoners of the USTA and its hotel rent-a-security at the isolated facility in deepest Long Island.

Never shy of overkill, reports indicate Mannarino was escorted by several burly security guards everywhere he moved around the deserted tournament grounds.

On court, Mannarino showed his veteran’s versatility by winning the first set in a tiebreaker after more than an hour before his German opponent levelled at a set apiece on a second set point.

But Mannarino had to call for the trainer for an apparent adductor muscle problem after trailing 0-3. The Frenchman’s form dropped as Zverev lifted the third set.

The German went on to take it in four sets on his first match point, winning 14 of the last 18 games.

“The first set bit of struggle, started to play better, I’m happier with my game, but there’s still room for improvement. .

“I’m still not playing my best, I’m working to get better and better. I’m glad we were able to play, Adrian is a good player and I wanted a match.”

Zverev was as confused as anyone over whether the match would go ahead or not. 

“We were told at one point there was very little chance that we could play. So I relaxed, and when I knew it was almost going to be a night match, I had my racquets restrung.

“There was a lot of back and forth between the USTA and New York state – it was all political.”

Seventh seed David Goffin defeated Serb Filip Krajinovic 6-1, 7-6(5),   6-4, with the Belgian squaring their series 2-2 with victory in just over two hours.

David Goffin in action during Men’s Singles match 2020 US Open. Photo by Pete Staples/USTA

Cam Norrie fell to Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6(2), 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, joining compatriot Andy Murray on the sidelines in New York.

The No. 76 had trouble with his vision at one point and explained: ” I was really dehydrated and got a little bit blurry.

“It started in the third when I broke. I wasn’t really seeing the ball that clearly.’

Norrie was playing a Grand Slam third round for the first time but was unable to go further.

Cameron Norre in action Photo Pete Staples / USTA

His downfall came in the last two sets with a collapse against his Spanish opponent, winning just one of the concluding dozen games.

“It was a real tough one, ‘I think I served really well in the first two sets and then I lost a little bit of physicality on my serve and my shots,” Norrie said. .

“He looked tired but he stepped it up in the third and the fourth and I dropped my level. 

“I was pretty dehydrated after the first two sets, it was tough for me to keep up the fluids, I was sweating a lot out there. All credit to him he played well.”

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in action during a Men’s Singles match at the 2020 US Open. Photo by Adam Glanzman/USTA

Davidovich Fokina spent part of the five-month tenis lockdown hitting with Novak Djokovic in Marbella

Another Brit exited with Dan Evans falling to Frenchman Corentin Moutet 4-6,   6-3, 7-6(5), 7-6(1).

Canadian Denis Shapovalov needed more than three and  half hours to get past Taylor Fritz 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2. 

Shapovalov polished his career margin in the series to 3-0 as he struck 22 aces and saved 10 of 15 break points.

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