LONDON (AP) — That familiar fist pump. That indomitable spirit. It was as if Andy Murray had never been away.
The three-time Grand Slam champion enjoyed a winning return to competitive tennis Thursday after five months away from the sport, combining with Feliciano Lopez to beat top-seeded Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah in the doubles at the Queen’s Club.
Murray was taking the first steps of his tentative comeback from what he hopes was career-saving hip surgery 143 days ago. It was even longer ago that he was breaking down in tears at the Australian Open in January, saying he was planning to retire after Wimbledon because of the severe pain he felt on a daily basis.
Yet Murray moved well, served well and, crucially, stayed pain-free throughout the 7-6 (5), 6-3 win in front of an excitable crowd on Center Court at the grass-court event.
“It was brilliant, I enjoyed it a lot,” the former top-ranked Murray said. “I was a bit slow at the beginning but got better as the match went along. I’m really fortunate to be playing tennis again.
“I felt quite relaxed in the build-up, but we said as we were walking onto the court that we were starting to feel a bit nervous. But you need those butterflies.”
Victory was wrapped up in under 75 minutes, Murray and Lopez clicking like a veteran doubles partnership even though they had never played together, and had barely trained together.
The fact that Lopez had been compelled to issue a fierce denial of links to allegations of match-fixing in Spain a day earlier was not ideal preparation, either.
At the end of a first set that went with serve, a ferocious forehand from Murray clipped the net tape on its way past Cabal and clinched the tiebreaker. That fist pump was on display from Murray following a succession of winners in the second set.
Cabal and Farah are a slick combination but couldn’t handle what came at them, with Murray volleying like a doubles specialist.
Lopez stood back after victory was secured to allow Murray to take the applause of the crowd.
Earlier in the singles, defending champion Marin Cilic, former winner Grigor Dimitrov and 2018 Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson all lost.
Cilic and Anderson were knocked out in the second round, while Dimitrov didn’t make it past the first round having waited four days to play his opening match.
Diego Schwartzman of Argentina beat the fifth-seeded Cilic 6-4, 6-4 and Anderson, the second seed, was defeated 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 by Gilles Simon.
Dimitrov followed Anderson on Court 1 and fell 6-4, 6-4 to Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Top-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas played two matches in one day as the rain-hit event tried to catch up, and he won both against Kyle Edmund and then Jeremy Chardy. He came from behind to beat Chardy 4-6, 7-6 (0), 7-6 (4).
Outspoken Australian player Nick Kyrgios swore at officials and accused them of “rigging” his first-round match against Roberto Carballes Baena, which he won 7-6 (4), 6-3.
Kyrgios lost his second-round match a few hours later, though, 6-7(4), 7-6 (3), 7-5 to Auger-Aliassime.
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