Tennis News: Andy Murray advanced to the second round of the San Diego Open with a straight-sets victory against American Denis Kudla after his planned opponent, Kei Nishikori, withdrew due to a back issue.
The Scot arrived in San Diego after reaching the quarter-finals of the Moselle Open in Metz last week, his highest finish in seven tournaments since his most recent comeback in June following lengthy absences from the game in recent years due to hip surgery and a slew of other injuries.
And the 34-year-old kept up his fine form after being handed a wild card entry into the hard-court competition, defeating the 94th-ranked Kudla 6-3 6-2 in 69 minutes.
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Murray said that the last-minute opponent switch was difficult for Kudla, who was on his way to Los Angeles when he found out.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s clearly not that easy, we only found out about an hour and a half before we got on the court,” he explained.
“I practised a couple of times with Denis. But I don’t believe we’ve ever played in a match before.
“It’s difficult for him because he found out in the car while driving to LA.” He wasn’t just messing around here. It’s definitely a tremendous effort for him to come out and play.”
Murray, who is now ranked 109th and closing in on the top 100, will now face Norwegian second seed Casper Ruud, the world No 10, in the second round of the Australian Open.
The 29-year-old Kudla, who entered as a lucky loser, was easily dispatched by the former world No. 1.
Murray won 90% of his first serve points and converted three of four break points against Kudla’s serve while allowing his opponent only one breakpoint in both sets.
“It’s fantastic to be back on the court, sort of healthy and competing like week after week for the first time since 2017,” Murray said. “It’s been a long time, and with each match, I’m starting to feel better.”
“The rankings aren’t the most important thing.” However, I’ve had some difficult draws in recent months. Obviously, when your ranking rises, you will begin to be seeded, which you will finally avoid. I want to win and raise my ranking so that I can have a greater chance of making a deep run in some of the major tournaments again.”
Murray’s last-16 encounter will be his first meeting with Ruud, who has won clay tournaments in Geneva, Bastad, Gstaad, and Kitzbuhel this year, and whose world ranking has risen from 27th in January to his present position in the top 10.
Other first-round winners were Murray’s fellow Brit Cameron Norrie, who overcame Germany’s Dominik Koepfer 6-2 7-5, as well as Diego Schwartzman, Lloyd Harris, Sebastian Korda, and Grigor Dimitrov.
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