The Big Four warm up For Melbourne.
Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal have started their 2017 campaigns with positive results as they prepare to mount their attacks for the first grand slam of the year, the Australian Open, which starts on January 15.
ItÈs difficult the first match of the year, we were probably both a bit nervous at the start
Andy Murray picked up where he left off last year by winning his first match back on tour to improve his tally of consecutive wins to 25 as he starts his build up towards Melbourne and the Australian Open, the first grand slam of the year.
His loss to David Goffin a week earlier does not count as it was an exhibition match which does not feature on the ATP Tour. He then went on to defeat Milos Raonic in his second match in Abu Dhabi.
Now Sir Andy following his award of a knighthood by the Queen in the New YearÈs Honours List, beat Jeremy Chardy in the first round of the Qatar Open in Doha by first brushing the Frenchman aside in 20-minutes for the opening set, and then struggling somewhat to finish it off in the second as the 6-0 7-6(2) scoreline suggests.
Chardy, who hasnÈt beaten the British and World No1 since 2012 securing his only victory in the Cincinnati Masters, produced some poor serving in the opener and while he made amends in the second, his inability to return despite breaking Murray in the opening game of the second set was never able to really break down MurrayÈs defences and eventually slipped to his ninth defeat at the hands of the 29 year-old Scot.
Speaking courtside after his win, Murray said: ItÈs difficult the first match of the year, we were probably both a bit nervous at the start.
He didnÈt serve too well in the first set but was a lot more aggressive in the second and pushed me hard.
The last five or six months of the year were the best. I have played consistently but IÈve got to keep getting better.
Now Gerald Melzer, who has not played Murray before, hopes to be able to prevent him adding to his current tally of consecutive wins and stop him making the final where the organisers hope he will meet Novak Djokovic, the second seed, who also came through his opening match after a dreadful start 24 hours earlier.
The Serb defeated Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany 7-6(1) 6-3 but had to recover from 1-5 down in the opening set to take control of the situation.
Also back in action is Rafa Nadal who opened his challenge at the Brisbane International as he saw off Alexander Dolgopolov recovering from 13 down in te opener to go on and secure a relatively comfortable 6-3 6-3 victory after 76-minutes.
The 30 year-old Spaniard, who has not won a title since the French Open in 2014, looks to be in good form following his enforced six month absence from the tour to give himself time to get over a series of injuries.
Nadal, seeded fifth on his debut appearance in Brisbane, will next face Mischa Zverev after the German defeated teenage qualifier Alex De Minaur, also by a 6-3 6-3 scoreline.
Finally, the last member of the Big Four, is enjoying himself in Perth where he is competing in the Hopman Cup team event where he has also got off to winning start following his break away from the tour.
Meanwhile in Auckland, Serena Williams won in her first match since September, requiring 75-minutes to sweep past Pauline Parmentier at the ASB Classic in Auckland.
The American missed the final two months of the 2016 season with a shoulder injury and has not been on court since the US Open but, despite being troubled by windy conditions she brushed off the cobwebs to win 6-3 6-4.
The American struggled initially as she lost her opening service game finding herself in difficulties with the windy conditions but she soon adjusted and brought her powerful game to bear on the Frenchwoman to win five successive games to take the opening set.
"It’s my first match back in several months and I was playing a really good player," Williams said. "This wind was getting to me. Every day I’ve practised here there was no wind and of course today I played and it’s so windy. It wasn’t fun, it was interesting.
"I’m feeling like I’m trying to get out there, and that every match counts. I’ve never played in front of you guys so this is really special for my career. I’ve never been here, so thanks for making me feel so welcome."