After announcing he might have to retire after the Australian Open, surgery has given former World No. 1 and three-time Slam champion Andy Murray a new lease of life
Faces Richard Gasquet in the opening round
CINCINNATI, USA – Two-time champion of the Western & Southern Open, Andy Murray has chosen this Masters event to make his competitive return to singles since the Australian Open
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Andy Murray [WC] v Richard Gasquet [PR] | Murray leads H2H 8-3
It has been a real roller-coaster of a year for Andy Murray whose hip issues have seen him tearfully contemplate retirement as well as the sight of him hobbling around in matches including his opening round exit last year in Cincinnati.
He has chosen the Western & Southern Open to make his competitive return to singles after delighting fans and pundits alike with his nigh on miraculous doubles partnership with Feliciano Lopez at Queen’s Club (they are teaming up again this week), as well as mixed doubles with Serena Williams.
Singles is a completely different beast to doubles, and this is the first real test of his hip, covering a full court, and against another injury-ridden player in Richard Gasquet, coming back after having a hernia operation earlier this year.
At his best, Gasquet was well known for his own speed around the court, matching up well to Murray’s practice of running everything down. However, if the Brit is smart, he will look to exploit the Frenchman standing far too defensively at the back of the court, and in general Murray has had the variety to undo the Frenchman, who last beat Murray on the clay in 2012!
However with both of them having been ailing, it feels a little more like a battle of the walking wounded. What Murray will not want is a protracted, drawn out match – something that the pair have a habit of doing since their second encounter at the 2017 Paris Masters. In slams they have never played fewer than four sets.
Gasquet also comes into this with two wins and a run to the round of 16 at the Montreal Masters, so has the slight edge coming into this, as he searches to snap a six-match losing streak – but Murray is pain free and more importantly has the joy back in his tennis. That could be worth a game or two in itself.
What is most important, however, is that Murray can get through his first singles without pulling up in agony, as we have witnessed over and over since he lost to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon in 2017. That would feel like a win, in itself.
Prediction: Gasquet in three sets.
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