Andy Murray moved well in his first singles match since January, but not well enough to move on — even to the US Open.
Using a bottomless arsenal of drop shots, Richard Gasquet on Monday snapped a five-match losing streak against Murray with a 6-4, 6-4 win in the first round of the Western & Southern Open.
The singles match was Murray’s first since a painful exit from the Australian Open that had him thinking his career might be over.
The three-time Grand Slam champion on Jan. 28 underwent a second hip surgery, receiving metal implants that helped eliminate the pain that had hobbled him for a long time.
Murray played doubles in several tournaments before deciding to try singles in Cincinnati, where he is a two-time champion.
“I don’t really know what I was expecting, to be honest,” Murray said. “I think I did OK. I think there was a lot of things I would like to have done better in the match, but, you know, you also have to be somewhat realistic as well in terms of what you can expect in terms of how you actually play and hit the ball.”
The US Open’s wildcard timing led Murray to decide against playing in New York.
“We were hoping to maybe hold a wildcard until a little bit closer to the time to see how I feel and get some matches, hopefully, and a bit of practice, but they were announcing the wildcards today and didn’t want to wait,” he said.
The 32-year-old’s rust was evident as he double-faulted on his first serve, but he recovered to last 1 hour, 36 minutes with no apparent health issues.
“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,” Murray said. “That’s just me not running for a ball, which I did do that better at the end of the match. I reacted and got to a few and won points.”
Top seed Novak Djokovic and third seed Roger Federer remain in the men’s draw. It is the first tournament for both players since their five-set final at Wimbledon, won by Djokovic in a match considered one of the greatest in history.
The other member of the Big Three, Rafael Nadal, withdrew from the Masters event, citing fatigue after he won the Rogers Cup in Montreal on Sunday.
The women’s Rogers Cup champion, Canadian Bianca Andreescu, also withdrew from Cincinnati to rest for the US Open.
Gasquet is to play fourth seed Dominic Thiem in the second round.
Before a standing-room-only Granstand Court crowd, Nick Kyrgios reached the second round with a 7-5, 6-4 win over Lorenzo Song. Kyrgios is next to face eighth seed Karen Khachanov.
In the women’s draw, five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova moved on to a second-round matchup with top seed Ashleigh Barty by knocking off fellow wildcard Alison Riske 6-3, 7-6 (7/4).
Eleventh seed Anastasija Sevastova became the highest seed to fall, losing to wildcard Svetlana Kuznetsoza 7-6 (7/3), 6-7 (4/7), 6-4.
Caroline Wozniacki, last year’s Australian Open champion, was eliminated by Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska 6-4, 6-4.
Also, 14th seed Johanna Konta was upset by qualifier Rebecca Peterson 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.
Unseeded Venus Williams won against qualifier Lauren Davis for a 7-5, 6-2 victory, earning a second-round match with defending champion Kiki Bertens.
In the first match on Stadium Court, 20th-ranked Elise Mertens dispatched local favorite Caty McNally 7-5, 6-0 to set up a second-round match with Elina Svitolina, the No. 7 seed and a semi-finalist at Wimbledon.
Marin Cilic, the men’s 14th seed, was beaten by Radu Albot 6-4, 7-6 (8/6).
Among other men’s matches, wildcard Sam Querrey earned a second-round berth opposite Djokovic with a 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/1) win over Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
Monday’s last match, between Reilly Opelka and 12th seed Borna Coric, was suspended by rain with Coric leading 6-4, 3-6, 4-3.
Uncertainty grips next year’s postponed Tokyo Olympic Games: Will there be fans or empty stadiums in 14 months? How will thousands of athletes, staff members and technical officials travel, be housed and stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic? And the Tokyo Games are not the only event. China, where COVID-19 was first detected, is to hold three mega-sports events in the year after the Tokyo Olympics are set to close. The World University Games in Chengdu, China, are to open, with up to 8,000 athletes, only 10 days after the Tokyo Games close. Next come the Beijing Winter Olympics beginning on Feb. 4, 2022,
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