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Murray vows to reach his peak for Australian Open after doubles joy in States


On way back: Andy Murray after defeat to Richard Gasquet
On way back: Andy Murray after defeat to Richard Gasquet

By Robert Jones

Andy Murray got back to winning ways with a first-round doubles victory at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati.

After his singles defeat to Richard Gasquet, Murray was reunited with his Queen's Club doubles-winning partner Feliciano Lopez and the pair recorded a 3-6 6-3 10-3 victory over number four seeds Jean-Julien Rojer and Haria Tecau.

Murray had understandably shown signs of ring rust against Gasquet on Monday, the game marking his return to singles action after a seven-month absence.

But the Scot, who is attempting to revive his career after hip surgery, was fully focused as he and Lopez fought back from a set down to progress on the tie-break.

Murray and Lopez paid the penalty for not taking advantage of three break points at 3-3 in the first set.

Rojer and Tecau fought back to win that game and then broke in the eighth game before closing out the set in 32 minutes.

Tecau's serve was broken as Murray and Lopez raced into a 3-1 second-set lead before the Spaniard lost his own serve.

Dutchman Rojer was then broken and Lopez held his serve this time to level the scores.

The tie-break was a one-sided affair as Murray and Lopez eased away to book their place in the second round against American pair Ryan Harrison and Jack Sock.

Murray had earlier revealed he is hoping to be back to the peak of his physical powers in time for the Australian Open in January after making his singles return.

The former World No.1 was back on court as a singles player on Monday for the first time since having a metal plate inserted into his hip joint last January - surgery which saved his career.

Although he lost 6-4 6-4 to Gasquet, there were positive signs as Murray competed well and, more importantly, reported no pain in his hip afterwards.

Despite that, he has still opted to not play in the US Open later this month - he will compete in the men's and mixed doubles - as he was not allowed to delay a decision to accept a wild card at Flushing Meadows until he had more game time and practice.

He intends to play a full schedule in the Asian swing of the ATP tour in the autumn and hopes to be back to his best in time for January's Australian Open.

It was in Melbourne where he played his last singles match, losing to Roberto Bautista Agut just days after announcing his intention to retire, so it would complete a remarkable turnaround for the two-time Wimbledon champion.

"Nine to 12 months after the operation is when I would expect to be getting close to the best that I can be physically - and speed wise I should be fully recovered by 12 months," he said.

"Speeds have improved, but they are quite linear speeds and repeatable tests, whereas on a match court you are changing direction and having to react to balls and anticipate. The way to get that back is by playing matches. You can hit as many speed targets as you like, but once you get out on court it's very different. I don't feel I was very slow out on the court (against Gasquet), but I was not as quick as I would have liked."

Despite his absence from Flushing Meadows, Murray says he will be stepping up his comeback, with three tournaments in Asia slated in.

"I'm certainly not going to go backwards from here," he added.

"Every time I've practised singles so far, it's all just been practice sets because I was trying to get back on the match court.

"But once you actually get out there and start playing you realise, 'Wow,' my return needs to get better, I need to improve my serve. I need to get myself on the practice court and work on those things specifically.

"It's not something that's been tried or done before in tennis. Hopefully if it goes well it will be an option for more athletes down the line."

Belfast Telegraph


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