Former world number one Andy Murray’s singles comeback ended in defeat in the first round at the Western & Southern Open in the United States on Monday.
The 32 year-old Briton was beaten 6-4, 6-4 by Richard Gasquet of France, who hailed Murray as a “legend” and a “great champion of the sport”.
Murray has slipped to world number 324 since he underwent hip surgery in January, and announced after the defeat that he will not be competing in the men’s singles at the US Open.
Instead Murray confirmed he plans to play doubles and mixed doubles at the tournament.
Gasquet also underwent surgery in January – on his groin – which kept him out of the game for six months.
Former champion Maria Sharapova defeated fellow wild card Alison Riske 6-3 7-6 (4) in the opening round of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
It was the first outing in Ohio for the Russian in five years and a single break at 4-3 helped Sharapova wrap up the first set inside 46 minutes.
The second set saw more to-and-fro, with Riske, the world number 37, breaking for a 3-0 lead before missing the chance to go 5-2 up as Sharapova battled back.
The 2011 winner failed to convert a break and match point at 6-5 but converted her third match point in the tie-break to book her place in the second round where she will face number one seed Ash Barty.
Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki fell at the first hurdle, going down 6-4 6-4 to Dayana Yastremska in just over 90 minutes, while Venus Williams also booked her place in the second round with a 7-5 6-2 win over American qualifier Lauren Davis.
Johanna Konta, seeded 14th, lost to Swedish qualifier Rebecca Peterson 6-3 3-6 7-5, wild card Svetlana Kuznetsova beat Anastasija Sevastova 7-6 (3) 6-7 (4) 6-4, Iga Swiatek beat Caroline Garcia 7-6 (1) 6-1 and world number nine Aryna Sabalenka made light work of Petra Martic 6-1 6-4.
Also through to the second round are Maria Sakkari who saw off Camila Giorgi 6-3 6-0 in just over an hour, Veronika Kudermetova who beat Bernarda Pera 6-2 6-3, and Elise Mertens who defeated Caty McNally 7-5 6-0.
Completing the picture are Yulia Putintseva who spent nearly two and a half hours on court to defeat Jelena Ostapenko 6-2 7-6 (3) 6-3 and Aliaksandra Sasnovich who beat Australian qualifier Astra Sharma 6-1 4-6 6-1.
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Andy Murray is excited to be reunited on court with his brother Jamie after announcing they will team up together in the doubles at next week’s Citi Open in Washington.
The former world number one has so far been restricted to doubles action since returning to the game following his hip resurfacing operation in January, winning his first tournament back at Queen’s in June before suffering early exits at Eastbourne and Wimbledon.
After his loss at the All England Club, where he also played mixed doubles with Serena Williams, Andy ruled out the prospect of attempting to make a singles return during the American hard court season and said he was unsure whether he would carry on playing doubles or focus his training towards singles action.
But the 32-year-old has opted for the former and will play with his brother in the Citi Open, which starts next Monday.
“I am going to be competing in Washington next week in the doubles with my brother Jamie,” he said on a video posted to Twitter.
“I am very excited to be on the court with him and go back to Washington, it is a city I have always enjoyed visiting.
“It should be fun and I am hoping to have a good summer over in the states, keep progressing physically and hopefully get on the singles court soon.”
The Murray brothers last played together at the Rio Olympics, but were a prolific partnership during Great Britain’s 2015 Davis Cup victory, while they have won two ATP Tour titles together, in Tokyo in 2011 and Valencia the year before.
Jamie is the defending champion at Washington, having won the tournament last year with Bruno Soares.
It is perhaps a bit of a surprise that Andy is opting to return to Washington after last year’s tournament director, Keely O’Brien, criticised him.
In the early stages of a comeback from his first round of hip surgery, he had been left in tears after winning a marathon battle with Marius Copil that ended at 3am local time and said afterwards he did not know whether he would play his next match.
He ended up withdrawing from the tournament, by which time O’Brien had told the Washington Post: “I hope that Andy really takes into consideration this role in his sport, and as a global role model to guys and girls on the tour and kids around the world that, when things are difficult and tough and the conditions aren’t great, it’s not OK to just give up.”
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