ABU DHABI – Andy Murray’s return to action after a three-month injury lay-off ended in a straight sets defeat to France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Mudabala World Tennis Championship on Thursday.
The Wimbledon champion and world No. 4 went down 7-5, 6-3 to 10th-ranked Tsonga on the opening day of the three-day exhibition tournament.
“The courts here are very fast and you have to react quickly,” said 26-year-old Murray, who underwent back surgery in September.
“Jo was sharper than me today, he served very well.
“It’s always good fun here. It’s great preparation for the season as you have to play against the best in the world.
“I have played some of my best tennis in the Middle East.”
Murray said he was happy with his performance and admitted it will take time to return to peak form.
“I moved well in the first set, especially once I got into the rallies,” he told The National newspaper.
“I didn’t feel slow at all. In the second I slowed down slightly, but that’s something that is going to get better by playing matches. I can’t expect to feel great for long periods of matches straightaway . . .”
Tsonga went into the match with an 1-8 record in competitive matches against Murray.
Even though Thursday’s clash was an exhibition meeting, the 28-year-old Frenchman said he was happy to have secured a rare triumph.
The Mubabala Championship continues on Friday with world No. 1 Rafael Nadal facing fellow Spaniard David Ferrer, who beat Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka 7-5, 6-1 on Thursday.
Tsonga will face world No. 2 Novak Djokovic.
Nadal keeping coach
Abu Dhabi AFP-JIJI
Rafael Nadal has no intention of joining the dizzying coaching merry-go-round which has seen Novak Djokovic hire Boris Becker in just one of a raft of changes ahead of the 2014 season.
World No. 1 Nadal has been coached by his uncle Toni since childhood and it’s a partnership which has brought 13 Grand Slam titles.
Djokovic, meanwhile, stunned the sport by hiring Becker, one of a host of former Grand Slam winners from the 1980s and 1990s to be handed new leases on life over the winter.
Roger Federer has been hitting with Stefan Edberg, Richard Gasquet has taken on Sergi Bruguera, Marin Cilic has renewed his partnership with Goran Ivanisevic, while Kei Nishikori signed up Michael Chang.
Undoubtedly, they were moves inspired by Andy Murray’s success with Ivan Lendl, which has yielded the 2012 U.S. Open title and 2013 Wimbledon triumph.
“It is great to have a great champion in tour games as they bring great charisma to the game. It will be great to have Ivan and Boris around this season. It is a good thing and will do positive things to the tour,” Nadal told the Gulf News.
“However, I will stick to my team. I always feel when I play bad, it is my fault and when I’m winning I’m doing the right things. I had success in my career with the same team.”