Britain’s Andy Murray made a successful return to action after six months out following hip surgery as he partnered Feliciano Lopez to a first-round doubles win at the Queen’s Club championships on Thursday.
The 32-year-old, five-times a winner of the singles at the prestigious Wimbledon warm-up event, delighted a large evening centre court crowd with some fluent shot-making as he and Spanish veteran Lopez beat top seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah 7-6(5), 6-3.
Murray, who missed most of 2018 with a hip injury, last played at the Australian Open in January when it appeared his career might be over following an emotional second-round defeat by Roberto Bautista Agut.
The two-times Wimbledon champion, by far Britain’s most successful player in modern times, underwent hip-resurfacing surgery shortly after that but has been coy about his chances of making a return to the singles court.
While not too much can be read into Thursday’s doubles win, Murray certainly appeared to be moving without the trademark limp that was present when he played his last singles match at Wimbledon two years ago — a loss to Sam Querrey.
He had the crowd roaring their approval, producing two crunching forehand winners to secure a vital break of serve in the second set and a superb backhand overhead volley in the last game as he and Lopez closed in on victory over the Colombians who will rue such a demanding draw.
“It was brilliant. I enjoyed it a lot. I was a little bit slow at the beginning but got better as the match went on,” former world number one Murray said.
“I’m very fortunate to be back playing tennis again. I love playing on this court, it’s a brilliant place to play tennis.
“I felt quite relaxed in the build-up today but I started to feel a bit nervous walking to the court. You want the nerves and the butterflies in the stomach and I had that today.”
Murray later said he had been “pain free” and confirmed he would play with Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the Wimbledon men’s doubles and would also play mixed.
“I have spoken to a couple of players. I’ve been rejected a couple of times so far,” Murray joked.
Zverev tumbles out of Halle quarters after defeat by Goffin
World number four Alexander Zverev’s quest for a first title at the Halle Open came to a grinding halt as the two-times runner-up was stunned 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(3) by David Goffin in the quarter-finals on Friday.
Belgium’s Goffin saved seven of 10 break points to overcome the tournament’s second seed and home favourite in two hours and 16 minutes to set up a semi-final clash with Italy’s Matteo Berrettini, who beat third seed Karen Khachanov 6-2, 7-6(4).
Although Zverev fired 14 aces in the match, his erratic serve was on display at the Gerry Weber Stadion as the 22-year-old made nine double faults to lose to Goffin for the first time in three meetings between the pair.
Goffin had a chance to seal the match in the third set at 5-4 but Zverev saved two match points to take it to a tiebreak, where the Belgian triumphed after winning all his service points.
Defending champion Borna Coric was forced to retire from his quarter-final match, after dropping the first set 7-5 against Pierre-Hugues Herbert, due to a suspected back injury.
Top seed Roger Federer is set to play Roberto Bautista Agut in the fourth quarter-final later on Friday.
Tsitsipas works overtime to reach Queen’s quarter-finals
Top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas survived a day of shocks at the Queen’s Club grasscourt championships as he claimed two victories on Thursday to reach the quarter-finals.
First the Greek 20-year-old returned to court to complete his weather-delayed first-round clash with Britain’s Kyle Edmund before scraping past Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.
Chardy served for the match in the second set but world number six Tsitsipas hung in to level before sealing a 4-7, 7-6(0), 7-6(4) victory to prolong his debut appearance at the prestigious Wimbledon warm-up event.
“I didn’t play very well but I found my returns when he was serving for the match at 5-4,” Tsitsipas, being tipped as the most likely of the next generation to challenge at Wimbledon, told reporters.
“I didn’t play my best, but survived.”
Defending champion Marin Cilic, seeded five, was earlier cut down to size by Argentine Diego Schwartzman in the second round, the big-serving Croat slumping to a 6-4, 6-4 defeat.
The result was all the more surprising as it was only the diminutive Schwartzman’s third career victory on grass.
Second seed Kevin Anderson, runner-up at Wimbledon last year, went down 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 to Gilles Simon while another Frenchman, Nicolas Mahut, put paid to the hopes of three-times Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka.
Mahut won 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(2) but there was an awkward moment for the veteran Frenchman as he was given a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct after leaving a ballgirl in tears when he struck her with a ball.
The qualifier, ranked down at 191 but always a threat on grass, had just dropped serve early on and decided to send down a practice delivery that clipped the ballgirl in the head as she went about her duties at the back of the court.
It was clearly accidental but followed another Mahut incident two days ago when he skidded over chasing a wide ball and ploughed into another unfortunate ballgirl.
Mahut and Simon meet for a place in the semi-finals.
Tsitsipas belatedly moved through to the second round as he finished off Edmund 6-3 7-5 having come off the previous night at 3-3 in the second set. He needed seven match points to end home interest in the singles draw.
It took him two hours and 38 minutes to get past Chardy but he says the overtime will stand him in good stead for the challenges ahead, starting with Canada’s Felix Auger Aliassime in what looks like an eye-catching quarter-final.
Auger Aliassime beat Nick Kyrgios 6-7, 7-6, 7-5 in what was the second match of the day for both players.
Kyrgios, who appeared to be going through the motions in the last two games against the teenaged Canadian, was given a warning for smacking a ball out of the stadium.
Earlier, the controversial Australian had also been warned for unsportsmanlike conduct during a straight-sets defeat of Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena in which he accused a line judge of “rigging” his matches and branded the match officials a disgrace.
Federer comes through tricky Tsonga test to make Halle quarters
Roger Federer was made to work hard by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Halle Open on Thursday before he sealed a 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-5 victory in the second round to continue his charge towards a 10th title at the grasscourt tournament.
The 20-times Grand Slam winner, who is using the tournament to prepare for next month’s Wimbledon championships, converted two out of four break points to come through a tight match in two hours and 16 minutes.
The 37-year-old Swiss, who has reached the Halle quarter-finals for a 17th time, next meets Roberto Bautista Agut who defeated Frenchman Richard Gasquet 6-1, 6-4.
Germany’s Alexander Zverev, runner-up in 2016 and 2017, stayed in the hunt for a first Halle title with a 6-3, 7-5 victory over Steve Johnson to set up a quarter-final against the unseeded David Goffin.
“I’m definitely happy with how things went,” Zverev, who withdrew from the doubles competition on Tuesday due to a knee problem, said.
“Obviously my knee is still swollen but the pain is much less than it was a few days ago. I hope when the swelling goes out it will be much better.”
Belgium’s Goffin, the 2017 ATP finals runner-up who has slipped to number 33 in the world, has lost his two meetings with second seed Zverev but both matches were played on clay.
Matteo Berrettini, who rallied past Italian compatriot Andreas Seppi 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, is seeking his third ATP title and second on grass following his success in Stuttgart last week.
Up next for Berrettini is Russian Karen Khachanov who has failed to defeat the big-hitting world number 22 in two previous attempts, including in the second round at Stuttgart.
Osaka‘s Birmingham exit gives Barty shot at number one
French Open champion Ashleigh Barty could become the first Australian woman to top the tennis rankings in more than 40 years if she wins the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham following Naomi Osaka’s second round exit on Thursday.
Osaka, who became world number one after winning the Australian Open, needed to reach the Birmingham final to guarantee she would stay ahead of Barty in the rankings but lost 6-2, 6-3 to Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva.
Barty made short work of Jennifer Brady, beating the American 6-3, 6-1 on Thursday to book her place in the quarter-finals and will become world number one if she goes on to win the tournament.
“The stars have aligned a little bit for me and I think when you get those opportunities you have to do your best to take them with both hands,” the 23-year-old told reporters.
“That’s what we have been able to do over the last month in particular but I feel like I’m comfortable in my own skin.
“I feel like I know exactly how I want to play in most matches, and it’s just about going out there trying to execute as best I can.”
Evonne Goolagong Cawley was the last Australian woman to top the world rankings in 1976 and if Barty wants to emulate her idol, she will first have to get past five-times Wimbledon champion Venus Williams in Friday’s quarter-final.
Kerber too strong for Sharapova in Mallorca
Top seed Angelique Kerber won the battle of the present and former Wimbledon champions as she beat Maria Sharapova 6-2, 6-3 in a heavyweight second-round clash at the Mallorca Open on Thursday.
Germany’s Kerber, who will arrive at Wimbledon as reigning champion, proved too solid for Sharapova as her comeback from more shoulder problems was cut short.
Kerber’s claycourt season had been undermined by an ankle injury and she bowed out in the first round of the French Open.
But the 31-year-old left-hander looked sharp as she dominated Sharapova on the Santa Ponsa grass, setting up a quarter-final against either France’s Caroline Garcia or Spanish wildcard Paula Badosa.
It was Kerber’s fourth successive win over five-times Grand Slam champion Sharapova, who returned to action this week ranked 85 after undergoing right shoulder surgery in February.
American teenager Amanda Anisimova, who reached the French Open semi-finals this month, eased past Alize Cornet 6-2, 6-4.
She will next face third seed Belinda Bencic, who also sealed her place in the quarter-finals. She was leading 5-7, 6-3, 3-1 when American opponent Shelby Rogers had to retire with an injury.