Andy Murray returned to the ATP Tour on Monday after last competing at Wimbledon, reaching the second round of the Cincinnati Masters with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Frenchman Richard Gasquet.
The three-time Grand Slam champion, who owns two titles here and played the 2016 final, has been struggling over the summer with a groin strain.
Murray, with 15 aces among his 38 winners, was pleased with his effort.
“I thought I did well. I moved pretty well for my first singles match in a while on hard courts,” he said. “(I was) certainly, a little bit more confident in my movement than when I played him a couple of years ago (2019).
“He uses all the angles on the court really well and makes you move a lot. I served well (and) got a lot of free points on my serve.
“I thought I was taking control of the rallies when I had the opportunities so it was a good match.”
Wild card Murray and Gasquet, a longtime rival whose 53rd ranking meant he had to qualify, first played 15 years ago.
The Scot, who reached the Wimbledon third round, leads their series 9-4. They last met in 2019 here.
Murray hammered 14 aces and broke three times in the win lasting just under two hours.
After three games which lasted for a total of 20 minutes to start, Murray grabbed a 5-3 lead, which he lost a game later before re-breaking to win the first set 6-4.
Gasquet was broken in the final game of the match after saving a match point before Murray prevailed.
Also, birthday boy Jannik Sinner turned 20 on a rain-interrupted day and celebrated with a win.
The young gun was joined in the second round after a delayed start by 34-year-old Italian compatriot Fabio Fognini.
Sinner erased memories of a disheartening first-round loss a week ago in Toronto when he went down in his opening match to Australian qualifier James Duckworth.
The youngster, ranked 15th, came good in Cincinnati as he defeated Argentine Federico Delbonis 6-2, 7-5.
Fognini joined the party with a 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 win over Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia in a first-time meeting.
“I gave myself the best present possible,” Sinner said. “I played and won a match on my birthday at a big tournament.” Sinner later posted pictures on social media of himself and his team enjoying a celebratory pizza.
Argentine Diego Schwartzman turned 29 on the day, defeating British number one Dan Evans 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 after more than two hours.
The South American welcomed the return of full crowds at the event, saying they give him optimism amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Right now I’m happy. In the US where the tournaments are almost 100 per cent people and 100 per cent normal.”
South African Lloyd Harris earned a place in the second round against Tokyo Olympic gold medallist Alexander Zverev as he beat Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka 6-3, 6-4 with the help of 11 aces.
Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime overcame his first-round loss a week ago at home to beat Marton Fucsovics 7-6 (7/0), 6-3 in a match interrupted by the rain which plagued play all day.
Dominik Koepfer won an all-German first-rounder with his defeat of Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 (7/2), 5-7, 6-3.
In the women’s draw at the joint event, Roland Garros finalist Barbora Krejcikova made a singles debut at the midwest venue as she defeated Russian Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-2.
Czech 12th seed Petra Kvitova, a two-time semi-finalist, beat 2019 champion Madison Keys 7-5, 6-4,avenging a defeat by the American in January, 2020, in Brisbane.
Spain’s Paula Badosa saved five match points in two and three-quarter hours to get past Petra Martic 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (11/9) and next takes on third seed and Montreal semi-finalist Aryna Sabalenka.
Swiss Jil Teichmann stopped Romania’s Sorana Cirstea with the loss of just two games.