Joy for former world number one, but misery for his fellow Brits in New York
Andy Murray made a winning return to Grand Slam action as he beat James Duckworth to advance to the second round of the US Open.
After missing four successive major tournaments with the hip problem that forced him to have surgery in January, just stepping back onto a match court at one of tennis’ biggest events was already a victory of sorts for the former world number one.
But Murray still fervently believes he can get back to the top of the sport and, although this performance will not have set any alarm bells ringing among his rivals, it was a positive start.
After dropping the first set on a tie-break, Murray gradually began to take control against Duckworth, who could empathise with his opponent having undergone five operations since the start of 2017.
Murray eventually ground out a 6-7 (5/7) 6-3 7-5 6-3 victory in hot and sticky conditions on the new Louis Armstrong Stadium and moves through to a second-round clash with 31st seed Fernando Verdasco.
The Scot said: “At times it was tricky especially early on, it was very lively, very hot. James was serving big and playing a lot of drop shots, throwing me off rhythm. I was happy I managed to get through that and play some good stuff at times.
“I’ve lost a lot of matches out here over the years, I’ve struggled a lot, but it’s like a new beginning. It was beautiful, a great atmosphere and I’m very, very happy to be back.”
While it was joy for Murray, it was misery for fellow Brit Kyle Edmund.
Edmund was struck down by cramp as he suffered a shock first round defeat to Paolo Lorenzi.
Much had been expected of the British number one, seeded 16th thanks to his brilliant season and with a strong record at Flushing Meadows.
But things began to go downhill after Edmund took the first set against his Italian opponent, a 36-year-old ranked 94 who had not played a hard-court match since the Australian Open.
By the fourth set, Edmund could hardly move and he limped to a 4-6 6-4 7-5 6-1 defeat in brutally hot and humid conditions.
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British women’s number two Heather Watson also exited in the first round for the eighth consecutive year.
Watson won her first senior matches at Flushing Meadows to come through qualifying but was unable to follow that up, losing 6-1 3-6 6-3 to Ekaterina Makarova.
It was a tough draw against the experienced Makarova, who always seems to bring her best in grand slams.
Watson had not won a set in round one here since 2013 and showed good fighting spirit to recover from 1-3 in the second to push the match into a decider. But Makarova halted the British player’s momentum and served out the victory.