Andy Murray clears first hurdle in US Open campaign

Andy Murray celebrates his victory against James Duckworth. Picture: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Andy Murray celebrates his victory against James Duckworth. Picture: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
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Andy Murray returned to grand slam tennis a winner as he battled past James Duckworth and into the second round.

After missing four successive grand slam tournaments with the hip problem that forced him to have surgery in January, just stepping back onto a match court at one of tennis’ biggest events was already a victory of sorts.

But Murray still fervently believes he can get back to the top of the sport and, although this performance will not have set any alarm bells ringing among his rivals, it was a positive start.

After dropping the first set on a tie-break, Murray gradually began to take control against Duckworth, who could empathise with his opponent having undergone five operations since the start of 2017.

Murray eventually ground out a 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 victory in hot and sticky conditions on the new Louis Armstrong Stadium and moves through to a second-round clash with 31st seed Fernando Verdasco.

The Scot said: “At times it was tricky especially early on, it was very lively, very hot. James was serving big and playing a lot of drop shots, throwing me off rhythm. I was happy I managed to get through that and play some good stuff at times.

“I’ve lost a lot of matches out here over the years, I’ve struggled a lot, but it’s like a new beginning. It was beautiful, a great atmosphere and I’m very, very happy to be back.”

Meanwhile, a cramp-stricken Kyle Edmund fell in the first round, losing 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-1 to Italian veteran Paolo Lorenzi.

Lorenzi, 36, has a good record in New York having taken a set off Murray in the third round in 2016 and reaching round four last year, but this still looked a good draw for Edmund, now a solid top-20 player and the 16th seed.

The British No.1 has not shown the form he would have liked on the North American hard courts, winning only three matches in four tournaments, but had the better of three straight breaks of serve to start the match before taking the first set.

But gradually, Lorenzi and the punishingly hot and humid conditions began to get the better of Edmund. He was broken to lose the second set and the same thing happened in the third, this time from 40-0.

By now, cramp had started to set in and Edmund called the trainer for some salt tablets. He was struggling to move, though, hopping around on the baseline as his calves tightened.

Lorenzi was not about to let him off the hook and Edmund did not win a game until 5-0 in the fourth set as he suffered a first-round loss at a slam for the first time since Wimbledon 2016.