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Murray's in a hurry as he starts the new year in style

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By Robert Jones

Andy Murray celebrated his ascension to number one in the ATP world rankings and his knighthood in the New Year's Honours list by beating Jeremy Chardy in the first round of the Qatar Open.

The 29-year-old Scot, who has been formally recognised by the Queen for his services to tennis and charity, brushed Chardy aside in a 20-minute first set before triumphing 6-0 7-6 (7/2) in Doha.

France's former Australian Open quarter-finalist had rallied to ensure a contest in the decider, but his poor performance on the return of serve led to his early elimination from the hard-court tournament.

At the end of a defining year, in which he won his second Wimbledon title and another Olympic gold medal, Murray beat his fierce Serbian rival Novak Djokovic in London to conquer the ATP World Tour Finals for the first time and secure the year-end number one ranking.

Last week he recovered from an exhibition defeat to David Goffin in Abu Dhabi to beat world number three Milos Raonic in straight sets and he stepped up a gear.

Chardy, whose sole victory in nine prior meetings with Murray came at the 2012 Cincinnati Masters, was helpless to resist the Scot's serve in a lightning opening set.

The Pau-born world number 69 upset the match's momentum by breaking Murray in the first game of the second set and an improvement on his serve saw him reach 3-3 for only three double faults.

Chardy looked keen to force a third set and composed several thrilling rallies on his way to the tie-break, but ultimately Murray's tireless counter-punching and wide range of shots got him over the line.

Now Gerald Melzer lies in wait for the British number one. The Austrian left-hander, who defeated Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-7 (2/7) 6-3 6-2 to reach the second round, has never played Murray before.

Murray, who is unbeaten since losing to Kei Nishikori in the US Open quarter-finals in September, looked in fine fettle making just nine unforced errors in the match as he seeks to win his sixth consecutive title.

"He didn't start well and it's always difficult in the first match of the year but in the second set he played extremely well and was very aggressive, fought to the end and pushed me hard," Murray said.

"I like the conditions and it's a really nice court to play on. I'm happy to be back so I'll hopefully have a good run."

When asked to put into words his amazing 2016, Murray replied: "The last six months of last year was by far the best tennis I had played consistently. But I have just got to keep improving. I lost a lot of tough matches, a lot of big finals against some of the best players of all time. I just have to keep getting better and learn from my defeats.

"I finally managed to get to number one at the end of last year after 12 years of trying so it was a lot of hard work, ups and downs, some tough losses, but I just kept fighting and managed to do it."

Rafael Nadal's mission to add to his 14 grand slam titles in 2017 received an early boost as the Spaniard saw off Alexandr Dolgopolov in straight sets at the Brisbane International.

The 30-year-old world number nine, without a major prize since he won the French Open in 2014, needed only an hour and 16 minutes to dismiss Ukrainian Dolgopolov 6-3 6-3 in Queensland.

Serena Williams won her first match since the US Open as she breezed past Pauline Parmentier at the ASB Classic in Auckland.

Williams, who missed the final two months of the 2016 season with a shoulder injury, brushed off any cobwebs to win 6-3 6-4.

Belfast Telegraph

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