Andy Murray defeats Frances Tiafoe on his return after nine months of absence | Andy Murray

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Andy Murray marked his return to competition after a nine-month layoff by defeating Frances Tiafoe 7-6 (6), 3-6, 6-1 in two hours and 28 minutes to advance to the second round of the Western & Southern Open in New York.

For Murray, simply returning to ATP was a positive step forward. After last year’s comeback culminated in a cathartic title in Antwerp, he was forced to miss the first three months of the new season with a pelvic injury resulting from complications with his replaced hip. By the time he was returning to practice and was joining the tour in March, the tour came to a halt.

Murray says he has spent much of the last 10 months of his training practicing just three days a week in the field for 90 minutes, focusing primarily on rehabilitating and strengthening his hip for up to a few days. before arriving in New York. “I did more [gym] in the last four months that I have probably done in my career.

Throughout the match, Tiafoe was as unpredictable and impulsive as usual, throwing drop shots and random forays at the net, determined to follow his whims rather than any coherent plan. It can be hugely entertaining, but it often overlaps and hits off the field.

After thriving in the first set, keeping serve throughout and avoiding a single break point, Tiafoe gained the upper hand in the tie-break and took a 5-2 lead.

But as he was about to get the first set, it was at that exact moment that his game fell apart. Murray did what he normally does, staying strong in tight moments, brushing aside any mistakes he made, then slipping a passing forehand to secure the opening set.

As Murray felt the weight of the 70-minute opening set, he lost the power in his legs and the pace of his shots slowed down throughout the second. Tiafoe took advantage, responding with a strong performance to strike back and level the game, breaking Murray and holding for the second set.

But as a new leaf turned, Murray picked up speed to start the third set and refused to miss. Tiafoe was a wanderer.

In his pre-game press conference, Murray noted that after a nine-month hiatus, even training with the best players again after so long was an important adjustment and another step forward. His recent returns have taught him to lower his expectations.

“I know tennis will come, but it won’t come back immediately, so you shouldn’t expect you to play perfectly right away. For example, in the first set today, the tie-break was a bad level. It was not good tennis, in my opinion. But I went through it and I didn’t get down on myself too much and I didn’t expect to play amazing today. I’ve been talking to my coach over the last few days and he was like, “You’re good enough to win games even when you’re not feeling well and to remember it sometimes. “

After such intermittent play over the past few years, the goal should just be to play as many matches as possible. He will have a special opportunity to see how his body reacts when he takes on world No.7 Alexander Zverev in the second round.

“There’s not really a vibe, to be honest with you,” he said of the atmosphere that will greet him on Wednesday and beyond. “So it’s obviously a bit tricky. I know it’s a bit cliché but you have to create your own atmosphere on the court but it’s not quite the same and, I said in my interview after the match that the conditions are rather hot and difficult.

“In tough times, maybe the presence of the crowd helps you focus a little more and sometimes gives you that little extra boost in terms of energy or focus and it’s not there and that’s it. is certainly different in this regard.

Elsewhere, Heather Watson lost 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 to Bernarda Pera as she struggled to handle the American’s shooting weight.

Watson had gone on lockdown in one of the best forms of his career, returning to the top 50 after his fourth career WTA title in Acapulco.

However, she struggled in her first two matches after losing 6-2, 6-1 to eventual champion Jennifer Brady at Lexington. She will have a week in the New York bubble to prepare for the US Open. Cameron Norrie and Kyle Edmund were also beaten on Day One in New York.

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