WASHINGTON: An emotional Andy Murray made a triumphant return to hardcourts Monday in his first match on the surface for nearly 17 months, outlasting Mackenzie McDonald at the ATP Washington Open. The three-time Grand Slam champion and former world number one, who missed 11 months with a right hip injury and surgery last January, defeated the 80th-ranked American 3-6, 6-4, 7-5.
Murray, who has fallen to 832nd in the rankings, needed seven match points to subdue McDonald, squandering five before being broken in the 10th game of the final set before breaking back and finally ending matters after two hours and 37 minutes at 12:45 am yesterday. “I fought hard and I had to,” Murray said. “The movements and stuff were fine. I didn’t break down. It lasted pretty well.”
The 31-year-old Scotsman unleashed a primal scream and a right fist-pumping frenzy of joy after McDonald hit a forehand long on the final point. “I enjoyed getting through that one. You could see it in the celebration,” Murray said. “That was a tough match. It could have gone either way. It was nice to get it.” Murray had not played in a hardcourt match since March 2017 at Indian Wells, where he lost in his opening match. “I hadn’t played in darkness or under the lights in a really long time and I felt my rhythm was off,” Murray said. “I was struggling on my serve. I cut the unforced errors a little bit in the second set and started serving better.”
Murray booked a second-round match Wednesday against British fourth seed Kyle Edmund, who had an opening bye. “I’ll have to play much better if I want to win that match, more aggressively,” Murray said. “It will help having one more match under my belt.” It was Murray’s first experience with a serve clock, which will be used at the US Open this year. “Without a shot clock, that would have been a three-hour match,” Murray said. “It’s a positive change for tennis.” After making his return from January hip surgery last month at Queens and Eastbourne, Murray skipped Wimbledon and began preparing for the hardcourt campaign.
Wawrinka rained out
His lone win on grasscourts came over Swiss Stan Wawrinka, another three-time Grand Slam winner fighting back from a left knee injury. The world number 198 had a first-round match against US qualifier Donald Young rained out. Murray’s first hardcourt match in nearly 17 months, delayed three hours by rain, turned when he broke in the penultimate game of the second set and again on his fifth break chance in the opening game of the third set. Murray, whose best Washington finish was a runner-up effort in his 2006 debut, served for the match in the 10th game but squandered five match points, four of them on errors, and McDonald broke back to 5-5 when Murray netted a forehand to end the 12-minute game.
At 30-30 in the 11th game, McDonald stuck his racquet over the net to play the ball, losing the point on a violation quickly called by French umpire Arnaud Gabas. McDonald then hit a forehand long to give Murray another chance to serve for the match. Murray, who surrendered four double faults and won only five-of-15 second-serve points in the first set, broke to open the second set but swatted an ugly forehand well wide to surrender a break in the next game, slamming a ball to the court in frustration at what in top form would have been a routine shot. Both held serve until the ninth game, when McDonald sent a forehand wide to hand Murray the break and a 5-4 lead. Murray held on a service winner to force a third set.
Jaziri gets Zverev next
Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri booked a second-round match against third-ranked defending champion Alexander Zverev of Germany by defeating Russian Evgeny Donskoy 6-4, 6-1. US wild card Noah Rubin beat Russian Mikhail Youzhny 6-4, 6-4 to reach a second-round match against US second seed John Isner.- AFP