Two-time champion Andy Murray made good on a main draw wild card to claim his opening match against Frenchman Richard Gasquet at the Western & Southern Open on Monday. In his first match since a third-round defeat to Denis Shapovalov at Wimbledon, the former No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings ground out a 6-4, 6-4 victory over the World No. 53.
On a humid night, the Briton finished with 38 winners, including 15 aces, to Gasquet’s 20 winners. He won 81 per cent of first-serve points to his opponent’s 61 per cent and committed 28 unforced errors.
“I thought I did well. I moved pretty well for my first singles match in a while on hard courts,” Murray said. “Certainly, a little bit more confidence in my movement than when I played him a couple of years ago. It was my first match [in 2019] I’d played since [I had] the metal hip in so I was a bit apprehensive.
“He uses all the angles on the court really well and makes you move a lot so you need to move well against him and I did that tonight. I served good. I got a lot of free points on my serve. I thought I was taking control of the rallies when I had the opportunities so it was a good match.”
A champion in Cincinnati in 2008 and 2011, and a runner-up to Marin Cilic in 2016, Murray had found success on this court before and after 40 minutes of play, he was the first to break for 4-2.
His attempt to serve out the set ended in a love break. But he made amends immediately as he broke to take the set at the one-hour mark.
The Frenchman had beaten Fernando Verdasco and Jaume Munar in qualifying to take his place in the main draw and would have done well to remember his most recent encounter with Murray – a straight-sets victory in his favour at this stage in Cincinnati two years ago.
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It was Murray who held the advantage in the pair’s ATP Head2Head and he improved that to 9-4 when he broke Gasquet for the last time to secure victory after one hour and 50 minutes. He awaits the winner of ninth seed Hubert Hurkacz and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
“The courts and the balls are pretty fast. Obviously playing in the evening slows it down a little bit but that was to my advantage,” Murray said. “He played with a lot of spin and during the day the ball gets up very high but he wasn’t able to get as high on me today so I was able to step in and control a lot of the points…
“It’s amazing. They were saying it’s the 16th year I’ve been here. I don’t think I’ve played any tournament more than that.”