On his return to tennis after four weeks out, Andy Murray avenged last year's shock defeat with a 6-3, 7-6(4) win against Nicolas Mahut at the Aegon Championships. He later returned to court to beat Aussie number two Marinko Matosevic 6-2, 6-2 in a much more straightforward encounter.
It was the world number two's first appearance since pulling out of his match in Rome four weeks ago, and he looked almost at home on the grass of Queen’s Club in his opening match. A mixture of injury and bad form has seen Mahut languishing down at #224 in the ATP rankings, although the Frenchman is fresh off the Roland Garros doubles final and is a completely different specimen on the grass surface.
The match was heavily marred by the English weather, with play thrice being interrupted due to the conditions. But the Brit eventually prevailed in an edgy encounter, saving all three break points he faced and stepping it up on the big points to seal his first win at Queens since winning the title in 2011.
Murray nearly got off to the perfect start with a couple of breaks points in the very first game. But Mahut’s serve came to the rescue, and the match settled into a steady rhythm as both players eased through their service games.
But in the seventh game the US Open champion stepped it up a level. A drop shot and volley combination earned him another break point, and this time Murray found the breakthrough - chasing down a drop shot and guiding the ball beyond Mahut’s reach.Read more (385 words)
The rain clouds were circling above but the Brit was unaffected, and after consolidating serve he raced to a couple of set points on the Frenchman’s next service game. Mahut saved them both, but a double fault gave Murray another opportunity and he took full advantage; a stunning lob that Mahut could only stop and admire as it flew over his head.
Just moments later the British weather intervened, and efforts to finish the match proved futile. Play was halted twice more after the restart, and eventually suspended for the day after just four games had been played.
It was Mahut providing the early pressure, playing like a man with nothing to lose – which, in-fact, he was – and Murray had to face two more break points in his next service game. But the Brit responded with aplomb, firing a bullet forehand winner followed by a 136mph ace to stave off the danger.
The set continued to be dominated by serve, but there were still some moments of individual brilliance – not least a stunning slice approach shot winner from the Scot and a brilliant diving volley winner from Mahut. But neither player was able to find a breach in their opponent’s serve – despite a couple of brilliant passing shots from Murray - and the set went into a ‘breaker.
After trading mini-breaks the world number two found himself 3-4 down, but a couple of brilliant passing shots sandwiching an unreturned serve saw him with two match points. And he only needed the one; pulling off another incredible passing shot from well behind the baseline to seal the victory in style.
Murray returned to court later on in the day to face Marinko Matosevic. This one proved to be much easier for the Brit, who broke in the very first game and raced through the match in just 56 minutes. The Australian number two never really seemed to settle, and despite the odd glance of what he was capable of, a number of wild errors aided the world number two who never really looked in any trouble.
In the quarter-finals Murray will face the veteran Benjamin Becker. The German is down at #105 in the world rankings after a brief injury, although he made the Nottingham final last week and is in a good run of form.