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Andy Murray wins first Wimbledon singles match since 2017

Elsewhere today at SW19, Novak Djokovic made a winning start and Stefanos Tsitsipas crashed out.

Andy Murray roars with delight after defeating Nikoloz Basilashvili.
Andy Murray roars with delight after defeating Nikoloz Basilashvili.
Image: PA

Updated Jun 28th 2021, 9:01 PM

TWO-TIME CHAMPION ANDY Murray won his first Wimbledon singles match since 2017 on Monday with a four-set triumph over Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia.

Murray, the champion in 2013 and 2016 but who has fought a long battle with hip and groin injuries in recent years, triumphed 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 over the 24th seeded Basilashvili.

“It has been extremely tough, even in the last few months,” said 34-year-old Murray.

“It was not the most serious of injuries but it was frustrating not to be able to get on the court. I have had so little momentum over the last few years but kept on going to the gym and trying to get back to do it again.”

Now ranked a lowly 118 in the world, former number one Murray will face either Oscar Otte of Germany or France’s Arthur Rinderknech for a place in the last 32.

His last appearance in the singles tournament at Wimbledon four years ago ended in a five-set loss to Sam Querrey in the quarter-finals.

A long-standing hip problem, which required surgery, then pushed him tearfully to the brink of retirement.

But three-time major winner and back-to-back Olympic gold medallist Murray said he intends to keep playing.

“I keep on being asked will it be my last match or my last Wimbledon,” he said.

“I don’t know why I keep on being asked. I want to keep on playing. I enjoy it and I can still play at the highest level. Basilashvili is ranked 28 in the world and I beat him.”

It was a roller-coaster evening for Murray who let slip a 5-0 lead in the third set. That led to a delay in proceedings to allow for the Centre Court roof to close.

But Murray broke in the first game of the fourth set to send him on his way to victory.

“It’s amazing to be back out here playing again on Centre Court,” he added.

“It’s such a brilliant atmosphere, it’s something that since I came back to play in the last eight or nine months I’ve missed, is playing in front of the fans.”

Earlier on Monday Novak Djokovic overcame an early wobble before getting his bid for a sixth Wimbledon and record-equalling 20th Grand Slam title off to a winning star, and then saw potential semi-final opponent Stefanos Tsitsipas crash out.

One year after the 2020 tournament was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, defending champion and world number one Djokovic claimed a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 win over Britain’s 253rd-ranked Jack Draper.

Third seed Tsitsipas, however, beaten by Djokovic in the French Open final just two weeks ago, slumped to his third first round defeat in four visits to the tournament.

America’s Frances Tiafoe, ranked 57, stunned the Greek star 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.

Djokovic, 34, struggled on the slippery Centre Court surface with the roof closed above it due to the rain which had delayed play on outside courts for five hours.

Left-handed Draper, playing just his fifth match on the main tour, saved seven of seven break points in the opener to stun the top seed.

But Djokovic soon snuffed out any danger of him becoming only the third defending champion to lose in the first round, by sweeping through the remainder of the tie.

He finished with an impressive 25 aces and 47 winners as his 19-year-old opponent, who grew up just six miles (9.5km) from the All England Club, wilted.

“I probably had one of the best serving performances that I can recall on any surface,” said Djokovic who fired 25 aces and 47 winners.

With the Australian and French Open titles under his belt, the Serb is bidding to become only the third man in history to claim a calendar Grand Slam.

Tiafoe won a second-tier grass court Challenger event in Nottingham this month before making the quarter-finals at Queen’s Club. On Monday, he made that match hardness pay against Tsitsipas, playing only his 16th match on grass.

britain-wimbledon-tennis Frances Tiafoe (right) commiserates with Stefanos Tsitsipas. Source: Alastair Grant

It was the first time in 12 attempts that 23-year-old Tiafoe had beaten a player ranked in the top five.

“It sounds pretty damn good,” said Tiafoe.

Wimbledon looks very different this year with Covid-19 protocols in place and a 50% capacity until finals day, but one familiar feature was the summer rain.

Play on the outside courts started so late that 16 of the day’s scheduled 64 matches were cancelled until Tuesday.

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Belarus second seed Aryna Sabalenka had the honour of being the first winner at the tournament in two years when she downed Romanian qualifier Monica Niculescu 6-1, 6-4 under the roof of Court One.

Sabalenka fired 48 winners past Niculescu.

“I was nervous a little bit because I haven’t played on the show courts at Wimbledon,” said Sabalenka who has yet to make the last-eight of a major.

Former US Open champion Sloane Stephens knocked out Czech 10th seed Petra Kvitova, the 2011 and 2014 champion, 6-3, 6-4.

Garbine Muguruza, the 2017 winner, needed just under an hour to see off France’s Fiona Ferro 6-0, 6-1.

Players are confined to a hotel ‘bubble’ in central London this year.

However, there have already been two virus-related withdrawals.

Britain’s Johanna Konta was identified as a close contact of a positive coronavirus case and will have to self-isolate.

The world number 31, a semi-finalist at the tournament in 2017, had been drawn to face Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic.

The 30-year-old’s place will be taken by 123rd-ranked lucky loser Wang Yafan of China.

On Saturday, former men’s doubles champion Frederik Nielsen was forced to withdraw after also being identified as a close contact.

“This is not unexpected,” said All England Club chief executive Sally Bolton. “It’s terribly sad for the players but it’s something we plan for. We have protocols in place.” 

© – AFP, 2021

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