Scotsman Andy Murray’s long-awaited return to singles play Monday at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati didn’t go as well as he or his fans might have expected with a 6-4, 6-4 first-round loss to Frenchman Richard Gasquet.
Gasquet ended a five-match losing streak to Murray, who moved cautiously and struggled with his serve during the match after working his way back from a second hip surgery in January. It was Murray’s first competitive singles round since Jan. 14.
“I think I did OK,” said Murray, 32. “I think 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.”
Gasquet used a series of drop shots to take the first set and was also helped when Murray lost his service in the opening game. After falling behind 2-0 in the second set, Murray came close to breaking Gasquet in the fourth game but failed to do so.
“(Richard) uses all of the angles on the court,” Murray said. “He’s one of the best at doing that. So I was having to move quite a lot laterally, and I didn’t move forward particularly well. Like when he drop-shotted, there was a few times I didn’t even run to the ball, didn’t react to it, and that’s nothing to do with my hip. That’s just me not running for a ball, which I did do better at the end of the match.”
The former world No. 1, who tearfully announced seven months ago in Australia that his career could be over, has recently played in doubles competitions, including with his brother Jamie at the Citi Open in Washington, where they lost in the quarterfinals.
“You could see that it was not the Murray of before, but that’s to be expected,” said Gasquet, 33.
Murray, who has plummeted to No. 324 in the singles rankings, teamed with Feliciano Lopez to win doubles at the Fever-Tree Championships title in London in June, and he played doubles with Pierre-Hugues Herbert and mixed doubles with Serena Williams at Wimbledon in July.
He plans to play only doubles and mixed doubles at the U.S. Open.
Murray lost in the first round of the Australian Open in January before undergoing a hip resurfacing surgery that he hoped would ease the pain that had plagued him for the previous 20 months.
Murray won the 2013 and 2016 Wimbledon titles as well as the 2012 U.S. Open. He also won Olympic gold medals in 2012 and 2016.
Overall, Murray has won 45 career singles titles, including nine in 2016, and made 11 Grand Slam finals appearances.
In other first-round action at Cincinnati, Moldova’s Radu Albot upset 14th-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia 6-4, 7-6 (6). Other winners included Spanish qualifier Pablo Carreno Busta, Serbian qualifier Miomir Kecmanovic, Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka and U.S. wild-card entrant Sam Querrey.
—Field Level Media