Andy Murray scored a heartening victory in his comeback to tennis, ousting Matteo Berrettini to reach the second round of the China Open.
Murray, currently ranked No.503 but using a protected ranking to gain entry into the ATP 500 event in Beijing, saved two set points in the second set to upset the eighth seed 7-6(2) 7-6(7).
Also progressing to the last 16 in Beijing were No.1 seed Dominic Thiem, sixth seed Fabio Fognini, defending champion Nikoloz Basilashvili and Felix Auger-Aliassime, whose 6-3 6-4 defeat of Albert Ramos-Vinolas sets up a second-round clash with No.2 seed Alexander Zverev.
Berrettini, the world No.13 and recent US Open semifinalist, is the highest-ranked player Murray has beaten in 12 months.
Since then, Murray underwent hip surgery following the Australian Open in January and is playing just the fourth tour-level event of his comeback, which began in Cincinnati in August.
The three-time major champion said the win was a continuation of the progress he had made last week in Zhuhai, where he reached the second round before falling in three sets to eventual champion Alex de Minaur.
“Last week was a really big step for me in terms of how I felt and how I played in the matches. The only thing last week that was tough for me was recovering from the matches,” he said.
“Now I just need to try and get the matches, get them consistently, so that I’m used to playing three, four matches in a week.
“Right now, at this level, I don’t know if I’m ready to do that or not. So the more I can get through these sort of matches like I did today, I’ll get there a little bit quicker.
“But it was good (today).”
Murray fell in the first round of his first two comeback tournaments in Cincinnati and Winston-Salem.
After progressing to the quarterfinals of the ATP Challenger in Mallorca, he scored his first tour-level win last week in Zhuhai over Tennys Sandgren.
The 32-year-old will face fellow Brit Cameron Norrie for a place in the China Open quarterfinals.
“In terms of the way that I’m moving now, in comparison to a couple of months ago, I mean, just my level of confidence in that is much, much higher,” Murray said.
“In terms of how I’m hitting the ball, ball striking last week was really good. That was quite a big step up for me in comparison to the matches I played in the States and in the challenger in Spain. I feel like I’m hitting the ball pretty clean.
“The first match I played (against) Gasquet in Cincinnati, I felt a bit out of place. I didn’t really feel like I was playing at a great level. Whereas even last week, although I lost in the second round, I felt like I was playing tour-level tennis. I was competitive, that I was in the match, even the one that I lost (to De Minaur).
“I think things are going in the right direction.”
22 February 2016
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