Sun | Feb 25, 2018

Murray makes tepid return

Published:Saturday | December 30, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Great Britain's Andy Murray (right) congratulates Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut after their match during the second day of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates yesterday.

ABU DHABI, UAE (AP):

Andy Murray made a tepid return to the court, losing a one-set match 6-2 to Roberto Bautista Agut in the United Arab Emirates exhibitions yesterday.

Murray, who has slipped to 16th in the rankings after ending last year as No. 1, wasn't scheduled to play at the Abu Dhabi tournament. However, he filled in for Novak Djokovic, after the 12th-ranked Serb withdrew from his semi-final against Bautista Agut earlier in the day with a recurrence of pain in his right elbow.

Murray, who has been struggling to find full fitness following a right hip problem, was initially only in Abu Dhabi to practise before next month's Australian Open.

He is also expecting to play in Brisbane, Australia, next week.

The 30-year-old British player lost his first two service games and trailed 4-0 against the 20th-ranked Spaniard. In the seventh game, he held a service game lasting 12 minutes.

"Obviously, I made a slow start and Roberto is one of the best players in the world," Murray said. "When you haven't competed for a while, it takes time to get up to that pace. I started to feel a bit better towards the end, but I need to keep improving for sure."

Murray, a three-time Grand Slam winner, did not move around the court at his usual pace and his first serves were way below his best. He did have one ace late in the fifth game, in which he also executed an athletic lunge at the net to win a point.

Aside from an exhibition match against Roger Federer back home in Scotland last month, Murray has not played since losing to Sam Querrey in the Wimbledon quarter-finals in July.