Andy Murray made his long-awaited return to singles play on the opening day of the Cincinnati Masters having undergone a hip operation last January.
I don't really know what I was expecting, to be honest. I did OK Andy Murray
He can now add to his long list of achievements, that he is the first player to have made a singles comeback following such hip resurfacing surgery.
He was certainly nervous thanks to a lack of match play and no doubt not really sure how his body would react so it wasn’t surprising that his first outing ended with a loss but more importantly, it showed that he hadn’t lost his touch.
The former world number one lost 6-4 6-4 after 96-minutes, to Richard Gasquet, a player he has never lost to before in five previous meetings, and then declared: “I don’t really know what I was expecting, to be honest. I did OK.
“There were a lot of things I would like to have done better in the match, but you also have to be somewhat realistic in terms of what you can expect, in terms of how you actually play and hit the ball.”
Murray said he “felt fine, physically,” throughout the match but acknowledged he needed to improve his fitness.
“My legs were a little bit heavy at the end of the match. When Richard drop-shotted me, there were a few times I didn’t even run to the ball, didn’t react to it.
“That’s nothing to do with my hip, that’s just me not running for a ball.”
Murray hadn’t played a singles match since a five-set first-round exit at the Australian Open last January when he tearfully acknowledged he feared his career was over.
Since undergoing right hip resurfacing surgery on January 28 the Briton has been working on his return playing doubles over the last two months including overall victory at Queen’s with Feliciano Lopez.
Gasquet, who also underwent surgery in January, in his case it was for a groin hernia, proved too strong, using testing drop shots and wide angles to move Murray around, tactics which could be seen to frustrate the Briton but as the match developed, Murray’s confidence grew, his speed about the court improved as did his anticipation.
Murray in fact finished with 20 winners but made 28 unforced errors and was optimistic, believing that he would improve,
“I think with a few more weeks of practice and hopefully some more matches, then I could do better,” said Murray who immediately revealed he would not be playing singles at the US Open this year and would be declining the wildcard on offer.
“I’m not going to play the US Open singles. I felt like I wanted to maybe try and get a couple of matches in before making a decision like that,” he added bearing in mind that best of five sets could be a step too far.
“It’s a decision I made with my team, I didn’t want to take a wildcard (in singles).”
Murray said he does plan to enter both men’s and mixed doubles at the US Open, the last Grand Slam of the year that starts at Flushing Meadows in a fortnight, but hasn’t decided on partners yet.
Murray did leave the door open for a possible surprise appearance next week in the last warm-up tournament before the US Open.
“Maybe I’ll play Winston-Salem,” he said.
In other action, former US Open champion, Marin Cilic, joins Murray on the sidelines following a 6-4 7-6(6) loss to Radu Albot.
US wildcard Sam Querrey booked a second-round date with top seed Novak Djokovic, defeating France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert 7-6(2) 7-6(1).
Australian Nick Kyrgios slammed a ball skyward in frustration to earn a warning but buckled down to post a 7-5 6-4 win over Italian Lorenzo Sonego.