Tennis

Murray overcomes slow start

2012-01-03 14:27
Andy Murray (File)

Brisbane - Andy Murray shook off some rustiness and overcame a number of big returns from Mikhail Kukushkin to win his first singles match since late November and advance to the second round of the Brisbane International.

Top-seeded Murray lost the opening four games before he rallied to beat Kazakhstan's Kukushkin 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 in two hours on Tuesday.

Murray hadn't played a singles match since he withdrew from the season-ending World Tour Finals at London with an injured groin. He announced on the weekend that he'd hired eight-time Grand Slam winner Ivan Lendl as a coach in a bid to break his drought at the majors.

No British man has won a Grand Slam singles title since Fred Perry in 1936, and Murray has been runner-up three times - losing the last two Australian Open finals.

Lendl is expected to join Murray ahead of the Australian Open, which starts January 16 in Melbourne.

They'll have a lot to work on judging by Murray's season-opening performance.

He dropped serve in the first and third games of the match and, after coming back and having a game point at 5-5 on his own serve, inexplicably didn't play a shot to one of Kukushkin's ground strokes which kissed the baseline.

Murray called for a review, which showed the ball was good, and the No 91-ranked Kukushkin also won the next two points to break serve again and held for the set.

Murray hobbled at times and clutched at his right leg, which was taped below the knee, but scrambled well enough to chase down a drop shot and send a passing shot down the line to convert a break-point chance for a 3-1 lead in the second.

From then, he was always in front, with Kukushkin becoming more errant as he pushed harder on his ground strokes.

The 24-year-old Scot had enough energy to leap high and punch the air to celebrate the win.

"He was hitting winners from all over the place. I was a little bit slow, I didn't expect him to come out swinging like that in the first match of the year," Murray said. "You have to be mentally ready from the start, and I wasn't quite there. I played better at the end."

Murray will play Gilles Muller of Luxembourg on Wednesday night.

In women's matches, second-seeded Andrea Petkovic of Germany advanced to the quarter-finals with a 7-6 (2), 6-0 win over Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic.

Joining Petkovic in the final eight will be 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy, who beat Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan 6-4, 6-4.

Defending Australian Open champion Kim Clijsters and former French Open winner Ana Ivanovic were playing later on Tuesday for a spot in the quarter-finals.

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