Andy Murray earned his first ATP Tour win in singles since January, beating Tennys Sandgren in the opening round of the Zhuhai Championship.
Murray faced Sandgren in the second solo match of his return last month, losing in two tight sets, and this was a demonstration of the progress he has made since then, claiming a 6-3, 6-7, 6-1 win against the world No69.
From the first-round victory over James Duckworth in Brisbane earlier this season before his hip resurfacing operation in late January, the former world number 1 has won a competition at that level.
Murray played his first tournament at the second tier Challenger level in 14 years in Mallorca, while his rivals were fighting at the US Open and had been training hard since before four consecutive weeks in the tournament. Improvements were evident on Tuesday, with Murray moving by far the best he has in his individual games so far and serving heavily. This has allowed the 32-year-old to be more aggressive, and he will be encouraged by the power behind the forehand.
There were also classic Murray touches – a deep defensive throw from a seemingly impossible position to win a point in the second set, and a handful of winners jolted after chasing after hand throws.
Murray, who did not face a breakpoint during the match, made the first set with a service break in the sixth match and had a 6-5 tie point on the second set tie-break. But his American opponent saved him and earned three straight points to take the contest to a third set.
In wet conditions, this was a test of Murray's physical condition, but it was Sandgren who was found missing. After Murray took the lead by 3-0, Sandgren took a long time to apply the tape to his foot and then dropped out after a gigantic game. Murray was unable to risk two chances to win the set but finished it all in his next service game and will face Alex De Minaur from Australia in the second round.