(Reuters) – Former world number one Andy Murray won his first ATP tour singles match in nearly nine months with a 6-3 6-7(6) 6-1 victory over American Tennys Sandgren in the opening round of the Zhuhai Championships on Tuesday.
Murray, whose last win on the tour came in Brisbane prior to the Australian Open, did win twice at the Rafa Nadal Open — a second-tier ATP Challenger Tour event — last month before opting to return to the ATP tour for the Asian swing.
“After the operation in January it’s been difficult and it was undecided at times about whether I wanted to keep going or not,” Murray told reporters after claiming his first win on the tour since a hip resurfacing procedure that threatened to end his career prematurely.
“But I’m really glad that I can actually get the win today and hopefully I’ll be able to keep going.
“Tonight I was hitting the ball well, movement was I think pretty good… I served well. Obviously there’s things that I feel I can do better, but it was definitely progress.
“Now I’m tired and fatigued. (My) muscles are tired from playing the match, but in terms of how my hip feels, that feels really good.”
Murray made his return to the circuit during the grasscourt swing earlier this year but only played doubles before his singles comeback at the Cincinnati Masters and the Winston-Salem Open ended in first-round defeats.
The 32-year-old fired 13 aces and did not face a single break point in the match that lasted two hours and 41 minutes in humid conditions.
Murray had the opportunity to win in straight sets when he had a match point at 6-5 in the second-set tiebreak, but Sandgren won the next three points to take it into the deciding set.
However, Sandgren struggled in the third set, dropping serve twice to give Murray a 4-0 lead and the American also needed a long medical timeout to have his foot strapped.
Sandgren, currently ranked 344 places above Murray, managed to hold serve once but it did not prevent a visibly exhausted Murray from serving out the match to set up a last-16 clash with seventh seed Alex De Minaur.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)