Andy Murray made a winning return to ATP Tour action on Saturday, beating Frances Tiafoe to reach the second round of the Western & Southern Open.
Murray beat Tiafoe, the world No. 81 from the USA, 7-6 (8-6) 3-6 6-1 in two hours and 28 minutes to win his first official tour match since beating Stan Wawrinka in the final of the European Open in Antwerp last October.
He had been aiming for a comeback from a pelvic injury at the Miami Open in March but the coronavirus pandemic brought the tour to a grinding halt.
The extra time away, perhaps, will prove beneficial in terms of strength and conditioning.
‘Physically, I thought I did pretty well,’ Murray said in his post-match press conference. ‘You know, I moved maybe better than what I expected to.
‘The first few matches back when I started playing singles last year I moved way worse than I did today, so that was positive.
‘My tennis could have been better. I thought I could have played a bit better. You know, I guess that will come, the more matches I play.
‘But I always need to see as well how I recover from a match like that too, because, you know, although I felt good during the match, things can sometimes stiffen up and hurt a bit afterward.
‘I’m happy with how I did today. Would have liked to have played a bit better, but physically I was good. That is the most important thing for me, because that hasn’t been the case for the last ten months.’
Murray is a two-time winner of this event, although this year’s edition is significantly different to years gone by.
Typically played in Cincinnati, the Western & Southern Open has been moved to the same site as the US Open in New York, with the hard court Grand Slam starting in a week’s time.
Fans are not permitted to enter the grounds, with a biosecure “bubble” in place for players, coaches and tournament staff, and Murray admitted the lack of atmosphere presents its own challenge.
‘There isn’t really an atmosphere, to be honest with you. Yeah, so that’s obviously a little bit tricky,’ added Murray.
‘I mean, I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but you need to kind of create your own atmosphere a bit on the court. It’s just not quite the same.
‘It’s obviously pretty hot, tough conditions, you know, and I felt like it was going to be the case before the match, but, like, in difficult moments or whatever, like a crowd being there sort of maybe helps you focus a little bit more and sometimes gives you that little bit extra boost in terms of your energy or whatever, your concentration, and that’s not there. It’s certainly different in that respect.
‘I thought I did quite well with that. Like at the beginning of the third set I made, like, a big effort to, you know, give as much energy as possible on the court. Fist pumping and trying to be positive, you know, that helped a bit.’
Beating Tiafoe, a former Australian Open quarter-finalist and a player who has been as high as 29 in the rankings, is not a bad starting point for Murray but a stiffer test is just around the corner.
Alexander Zverev, the world No. 7 from Germany, awaits him in round two.
The pair have met once, four-and-a-half years ago in the first round of the Australian Open. Then world No. 2 Murray cruised through 6-1 6-2 6-3. Such a one-sided scoreline on Monday would be a major surprise.
‘It will be a good test for me, for sure,’ said Murray. ‘You know, he’s played well in the Masters Series, maybe in the Slams not played as well I know for the last few years.
‘But Masters Series he definitely played well. You know, he moves well for a big guy, solid off the ground. Has struggled at times with his serve. You know, when he’s serving well he’s obviously one of the top players in the world.’
Murray was the only Brit to emerge victorious on Saturday. Kyle Edmund, Heather Watson and Cam Norrie went down to Kevin Anderson, Bernarda Pera and Reilly Opelka respectively.
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