Nearly seven months after believing his tennis career was coming to an end, Andy Murray played his first singles match, filming the occasion on his phone upon entering the stadium in Cincinnati.
The former world No. 1 first returned from his hip resurfacing surgery in June, triumphing with Feliciano Lopez at Queen’s Club in his first of five doubles events. On Monday, the 32-year-old got his first tangible barometer of where his singles game is at after taking on longtime rival Richard Gasquet.
The Frenchman ultimately won, 6-4, 6-4, in one hour and 37 minutes. Murray was broken to begin each set, but showed he still had the heart and resolve to compete by hanging in. Gasquet implemented effective use of the drop shot to test Murray’s agility and reaction time, and hit through his forehand when necessary to set up a second-round meeting with fourth seed Dominic Thiem. Gasquet is 2-0 against the Austrian, with both previous encounters coming on indoor hard courts.
Murray’s serve, arguably the most vulnerable part of his game throughout his career, is an area that will remain under the microscope. The Scot will look to improve his first-serve percentage the next time out, after making just 54 percent against Gasquet and finding a 42 percent success rate on his second serve, which at times dropped well inside the box.
"I think I did okay. I think there was a lot of things I would like to have done better in the match, but you also have to be somewhat realistic, as well, in terms of what you can expect in terms of how you actually play and hit the ball," said Murray.
"I think as the match went on, I feel like I played a little bit better. I started to serve better as it went on. I think I reacted to more balls as the match went on. I created a few more chances in the second set than I did in the first."
Although Murray's movement wasn’t at the level fans are accustomed to, he was successful in picking his moments to come forward, winning 12 of 16 points at the net. He finished with 20 winners to 28 unforced errors and will undoubtedly hope to increase his aggression as he becomes more comfortable in crafting points and stepping into the court.
Murray later announced he would not play singles at the US Open, where best-of-five sets is required. His next singles event will be the inaugural ATP event in Zhuhai, unless he takes a wild card into Winston-Salem next week.